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Sherrill: Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

  • Posted: 01.06.2020
Pictured is Melody Sherrill
Melody Sherrill will retire from her position as Sr. Administrative Assistant after 33 years with NIPCO.

While driving home from a Bible Study in Sioux City in the spring of 1986, Melody Sherrill felt led to stop at the NIPCO headquarters to ask if there were any positions open in the clerical area. "I had left my previous job and hadn't worked for a couple of months, " she recalled. As luck (or a divine plan) would have it, there was a position available and shortly, thereafter, Sherrill began her 33-year career with the Generation & Transmission Cooperative.

Melody Sherrill's first day on the job was May 5, 1986. "It was Safety Meeting Day!" Sherrill doesn't remember much else from her first day...only that she was excited to put her skills to work as NIPCO's Correspondence Specialist. Melody has worked for four General Managers (Phil Hauan (1988-1993), Stephen Brevig (1993-2001), Kent Pauling (2001-2015), and current Executive Vice President/General Manager Matt Washburn (2015-)) and countless Directors. Changing generations of leadership and evolving technologies have shaped her day-to-day work.

Phil Hauan would handwrite his monthly Operating Reports for the Board of Directors. Sherrill would take his handwritten notes and transcribe them to the paper document format that was distributed in monthly Board Meeting Packets to the NIPCO Directors. "When I first started, we ran paper copies of everything," she explained. "And everything had to be mailed...not posted electronically and instantly like it is, today."

Melody is pictured at her desk, 1986. (Photo: Bev Bremer)

While NIPCO's first computer had been introduced to office administrative operations in 1984, two years before Sherrill was hired, she is certainly a witness as to how the incorporation of technology has significantly improved efficiency over the days of typewriters and carbon copies.

Melody Sherrill was named Senior Administrative Assistant in 1989. She reported to Shirley Mesner, who retired in 2003. Melody credits her predecessor for instilling the importance of being detail-oriented. Melody's eye for detail has been lent to reams of cooperative documentation including agendas, minutes, resolution statements, forms...the list goes on and on. In addition, she has administered meeting registrations and travel details for directors, managers, and staff as well as served as the cooperative archivist, ensuring that cooperative records are meticulously kept and maintained.

That eye for detail was also manifested through the famous "Board Room Stick", an item that was introduced to Melody, early in her career at NIPCO. This "NIPCO-specific" unit of measurement found its place for decades throughout NIPCO's history, though its relevancy in the board room has waned. The stick ensured that the board room table was properly set, prior to monthly board meetings. "It would give the precise location of director name plates, note pads, and meeting binders," Sherrill explained. That stick passed from Shirley Mesner to Melody and, at her retirement party, was passed from Melody to Amy TenNapel, who will serve as Melody's replacement.

Melody demonstrates how the Board Room stick once played an important role in NIPCO Board of Directors meeting planning and preparation.

Melody's keen eye and positive spirit will be missed around the halls of NIPCO. As for the future of the measuring stick? One can only guess.

On January 7, Sherrill retired from her service to NIPCO. She and husband, Steve, have a few home projects they will be working on and look forward to visiting their daughters, Stefanie and Nicole, and their families in Brandon, South Dakota, and Plainfield, Illinois, respectively. With more free time, Melody and Steve will be able to spend more time cheering on their grandkids in all of their sports and other interests.

When asked what is the first thing she will do after walking out of the NIPCO offices for the last time as an employee, she shrugs and chuckles, "Maybe do laundry?"

The NIPCO family thanks Melody for all she has contributed to the organization and for her service to the NIPCO membership.