Meet a real-life Energy Advisor: Darrell Marks talks cattle and remodeling

Not everyone would think of raising cattle as a good way to relax, but that’s only because they haven’t heard Darrell Marks describe it. Marks, an Energy Advisor for Kankakee Valley REMC, is just as at home tending his Angus cattle as he is advising co-op members on how they can save energy.

How’d you become an Energy Advisor?
I’ve been with the company 20 years this March. I started as a journeyman on the line, and even though I enjoyed the work I couldn’t help looking to the future as far as the wear and tear on my body that kind of work will cause. I applied for the EA program when it was introduced in 2008 and came into the position that summer.

What’d you do before?
I was a hired man on my neighbor’s grain and livestock farm.

What’s the last hobby you picked up?
Raising Angus cattle. I’ve always been around farming, and both sets of grandparents were farmers. I really have always liked animals. I live on the farm that the Marks family homesteaded in 1870. I’m the fifth generation to live here.

I had a friend that was in the cattle business, so I purchased a couple of young heifers and started there. I created a lot of pasture from land that used to be pasture years ago. It’s so relaxing. That’s my fishing or hunting, out there in the pasture. I take the four-wheeler out there and just sit with the cattle. It’s peaceful just watching them, and it’s something my wife and daughters can do with me.

What’s the best vacation you ever had?
My first trip to Florida, around 1999 or 2000. I had always wanted to go there and had never been more than a state away. Things move at a different pace, and it was neat seeing the ocean for the first time. But you find out Georgia is a very long state when you drive.

If you could switch lives with a person for one day, who would it be?
Probably a rancher out west. They do what I love on a larger scale.

In a world without electricity, what would you miss most?
The convenience of running water.

What’s the best thing that happened to you yesterday?
Going home and seeing my family. I’ve got a wife and two daughters, 4—almost 5—and a 3-year-old. It’s fun now, but it wasn’t so fun about 3 years ago.

How’d you change your energy habits at home after you took this job?
I became more aware of sealing versus insulation. I’m currently remodeling the house my great-grandfather built in 1911. I’d done one room before I had this position, but I totally changed my approach after I became an Energy Advisor. People think putting insulation somewhere is going to solve problems, but insulation is like a filter; air still goes through. Sealing has made a huge difference in the comfort level in the rooms I’ve done since I took this position.

What’s the number one thing members want to know?
Why their bills are so high. I was just at a lady’s house this morning; I got to the house and it was the same thing. She was using an electric space heater and had major air leaks in the house.

What’s the number one thing you wish they knew?
No two houses are the same. The members compare themselves to neighbors, but they just can’t.

If you weren’t an EA, what would you be?
I’ve always said my life has been a series of circumstances. What I’d like to be is a farmer. On class rings, usually people have sports. I had agriculture on mine.