Pepco President Thomas Graham: “Never in my wildest imagination did I imagine that I would rise through the organization the way that I’ve done.” (Joseph Victor Stefanchik/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

My father encouraged me to apply for a job at a utility or work for the government — work 30 years and retire. I had submitted many applications to Pepco and Washington Gas and to the government, because that’s what my father said I had to do. In four years, I will reach the goal that my father told me that I needed to reach. Never in my wildest imagination did I imagine that I would rise through the organization the way that I’ve done.

I don’t go home during the storms. I make plans to be away for probably two or three days. There are a lot of internal meetings that take place to make sure that we have supplies; vacations are canceled. I have a lot of respect for the individuals that work in the field. They work 16 hours a day until service is restored, regardless of the conditions. Whether it’s cold, raining or snowing, they are out in the field. For a portion of the day, I like to go out and interact with them. I remember one occasion I was at a site, and it was probably around midnight. I was driving home, and I saw a crew. I pulled over to talk to them a little bit, to see what was going on. I had my hard hat on and a pair of jeans. I had my safety vest and my glasses. When service came back on, about half the people in the households came out into the street and started applauding the crews. A gentleman said [to a crew member]: “We really appreciate all that you do. … You’re not like one of those suits that are in the office that don’t ever come out and say anything.” [The crew member] said: “Excuse me. Let me introduce you to Mr. Graham.”

I interact with my neighbors; I send them information. Sometimes they send me notes back. Over the last couple of years, because of the amount of attention that the company has received — and being the spokesperson and essentially the face of the company — customers, they stop me everywhere, whether it be Best Buy or Safeway or in the barber shop or just walking down the street, to say they’ve been praying for me. Another time I was in Prince George’s County, and I was waiting for a crew to arrive on a site, and a gentleman drove by, put his car in reverse and came back again. He says: “You’re the Pepco guy. I know a lot of people say a lot of things about your company, but I just wanted to stop and tell you that I think you’re doing a good job.” That has been something that I had not expected, for people to pay attention to that degree. I’ve shared some of the stories within the company, and it makes us feel good that we’re starting to move in the right direction and people are noticing.