44 THE POWER OF POSSIBILITY NISC | 50 YEARS OF INNOVATION AND MEMBER SERVICE member and General Manager of First Electric Cooperative in Jacksonville, Arkansas, recruited Hobson. In the summer of 1980, Hobson came into the office in suburban St. Louis and saw a building divided into pods. “The executive pod had double mahogany doors that were always closed, and they were between the rest of the organization and the executives,” he recalls. Hobson asked a maintenance worker to remove the doors. “Within a matter of months, every department manager was in his department and not in the executive pod,” says Hobson. That was the start of a new culture at CADP. “His main objective was to do whatever it took to serve the Membership,” says Delbert Smith, a former Board President of CADP and the first Board Chairman of NISC. “He really had no [drive for] personal gain. He was dedicated completely to the cooperative principle of providing data processing services for the Members.” Under Hobson’s leadership, CADP helped Members stay on the front edge of technology, from new software and in-house computers in the 1980s to a PC-based mapping system and e-billing in the 1990s. Hobson was particularly proud of CADP’s early entry into bidirectional satellite communi- cations with Members, which lowered costs and reduced the time it took to transmit data to and from Members. CADP helped found the National Rural Telecommunications Cooper- GARY HOBSON: KEEPER OF THE FAITH IN THE COOPERATIVE WAY Gary Hobson, the first CEO of NISC, embodies the cooperative spirit. Collab- orative, supportive, committed to his Member-Owners and his employees, he is a true believer who has spent his entire career in the cooperative world. “I’ve always said co-op organizations are more like a religion than they are a company,” he says, reflecting on his years of service. “It’s just something that you believe in, that you feel.” Hobson was fresh out of Oklahoma State University with a degree in management in 1966 when he began working for a rural electric co-op. When he arrived, the co-op was still using an addressograph, a hand-fed machine that printed the bills. It became one of the first Members of the new Central Area Data Processing (CADP). The dawn of technology brought unimagined efficiencies for co-ops — and the promise of a dynamic future. Hobson was there from the beginning. “I’ve actually seen or used every piece of software [from the early days of] CADP,” says Hobson. He rose to General Manager at a second Oklahoma co-op, then moved to Arkansas to work for the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC), a lending arm for electric co-ops. When CADP needed a leader who would bring its finances into order, Carl Williams, a CADP Board “It means we have to do the right thing,” answered Bonnie Haupt, a member of the group and now a Sr. Software Specialist. “Is there anything you want to add to that?” Luecal prompted. “Always?” added Haupt. Do the right thing, always. That became the most important underlying value for NISC. Employees who come to NISC from other companies are often surprised to discover that the values aren’t just words on a wall plaque. They are integrated into performance standards and reflected in decisions, large and small.