From Kent County to Iron Mountain, DTE Energy’s team serves the largest territory of natural gas customers in Michigan. Behind the millions of residents whose daily routines are powered by DTE, a league of dedicated regional and relationship managers serves as the indispensable link between the company and the community.
DTE’s regional and relationship managers’ day-to-day routines involve strategic planning, community engagement and direct customer outreach. They convey community insights to the company, underscoring the significance of customer feedback in enhancing services and addressing issues such as recent outages or service concerns.
Working in a uniquely vast area, the managers covering West Michigan, Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula juggle remote meetings and in-person interactions, emphasizing the value of face-to-face communication despite the challenges.
“There is nothing like meeting with people face to face,” said Chris Hackbarth, regional manager for the Northern Michigan region.
Like all managers, Hackbarth’s dedication extends beyond mere duty, embracing a commitment deeply rooted in understanding, supporting and advancing the welfare and needs of the local populace. In a recent initiative, DTE partnered with the secretary of state and attorney general providing driver’s license restoration clinics across the state of Michigan.
“Not having a license is a large hurdle many people experience when trying to get to work,” said Hackbarth. “It was extremely fulfilling to work with our team to provide a one-stop-shop to those struggling individuals.”
With 14 years of tenure at DTE, Jacob Walker, a relationship manager, champions community awareness and engagement in the areas he serves. His commitment lies in ensuring every customer is well-versed in the resources available to them.
Following the devastating tornado that tore through Gaylord in May 2022, Walker’s team was on the ground assisting with cleanup and distributing resources to the affected area.
“Within just a few hours of the storm, we were able to shut off the natural gas in all impacted buildings to avoid further risk,” said Walker. “We worked with the local city government and Otsego County United Way to help those in need by passing out resources like Meijer gift cards, resource kits and blankets.”
Frequently, managers find themselves entrenched in the challenging task of resolving issues raised by dissatisfied customers.
“Navigating conversations with individuals and resolving customers issues can be quite challenging,” said Walker. “However, the ability to engage with disgruntled customers, understand their grievances and establish a foundation of mutual respect is a significant stride.”
With roots in the region, many of the regional and relationship managers have deep personal ties to the communities they currently serve. Jonathan Wilson, a proud Kalamazoo native, has devoted nearly five years to his role as regional manager of Kent County and Muskegon.
“I love my community,” said Wilson. “I recognize tremendous potential in Muskegon and strive to leverage my expertise to enhance its growth and development.”
From resolving service issues during unexpected outages to spearheading community assistance campaigns, the regional and relationship managers in West Michigan, Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula continuously navigate multifaceted roles, transforming challenges into opportunities and fostering partnerships that drive progress across the region.
For more information on DTE’s efforts in your community, visit EmpoweringMichigan.com. If you’re interested in speaking with a DTE representative or coordinating a speaking opportunity, contact DTEoutreach@dteenergy.com.