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‘For me, volunteering is restorative’

December 5, 2023 | Grant Schulte | community, OPPD employees, powerful life
COM_Garry Flord 2023 Floyd 22

They call him “The Mayor.”

Garry Floyd struts eagerly past crowds in parades, trims hedges and sweeps leaves for homeowners at OPPD Rock the Block events, and packs food for local pantries. When hundreds fill the streets for OPPD’s annual Heat the Streets Run & Walk for Warmth, he cheers them at the finish. “Come on! You got this!”

Floyd is pretty much everywhere at OPPD’s community volunteer events, bright as a bulb in his orange company T-shirt and bursting with enthusiasm. As if the 55-year-old wasn’t busy enough with his job supervising OPPD’s mail room, print shop, and Technology & Security Admin teams, Floyd is also a champion volunteer who embodies the spirit of International Volunteer Day, celebrated each year on Dec. 5.

“When you bring honor, passion and care to your job, you can leave work every day feeling restored,” Floyd said. “For me, volunteering is restorative. It connects us all to the community in a very unique way.”

A low-key beginning

Floyd joined OPPD 16 years ago as a part-time alarm station operator at Energy Plaza in downtown Omaha, working 12-hour weekend and holiday shifts while juggling a different full-time job Monday through Friday.

In a room filled with security monitors, he sat alone and kept watch over vital OPPD secured sites throughout the district while other employees enjoyed time off.

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Garry Floyd pours energy into his colleagues and his community, reflecting OPPD’s core values. Photo by Danielle Beebe-Iske

Floyd didn’t mind. He had always felt moved by OPPD’s core values – a passion to serve, honoring community, caring for one another – and saw the utility as a crucial public service. That sense of mission kept him reporting to work for 13 years, even as he applied, and was rejected, for other OPPD jobs.

“Power never sleeps,” he said. “That was my job. OPPD needed me to sit in that chair.”

His other job was at Professional Research Consultants (PRC), a health care market research firm, where he interviewed patients and eventually doctors about their experiences in hospitals. Over time, he earned a promotion to management at PRC, where he wrote call scripts and traveled the country. Yet he continued part-time at OPPD, and some coworkers wondered why he held onto two jobs.

Floyd shrugs. “I’d rather do two jobs I loved than one I hated.”

Always something to do

Floyd first volunteered to help with the Heat the Streets event, which raises funds for OPPD’s Energy Assistance Program, in 2008. He quickly saw its value. He particularly appreciated OPPD’s Rock the Block events, where employees from the utility work to help clean and revitalize neighborhoods.

“The people who live in these homes, they need us to leave them better than we found them,” he said. “It could be something as simple as pulling shrubs so they have an easy path to their home. You can see the looks on their faces. It’s restorative for them. That’s probably what I get most amped up about.”

His energy and work ethic caught the attention of David Boyd shortly after he became Floyd’s manager. When a supervisor position came open, Boyd encouraged Floyd to apply.

Garry Floyd participates in Habitat for Humanity Rock the Block events.
“The people who live in these homes, they need us to leave them better than we found them,” Garry Floyd said of participating in Habitat for Humanity Rock the Block events. “It could be something as simple as pulling shrubs so they have an easy path to their home.”

“Garry clearly stood out in terms of his ability to communicate and his work outside of OPPD,” said Boyd, who is now an OPPD programs and planning manager. “He’s very involved, very community focused, and focused on service.”

Floyd also participates in the Defining Leadership program, sponsored by ICAN (the Institute for Career Advancement and Networking), a group that helps employees grow in their jobs, connect to others and rise into leadership roles.

“I love this company for what it does as a company, but I also love what it does as a community advocate,” Floyd said. “This company does truly value the community it serves.”

Learning to serve others

Floyd grew up in Las Vegas, one of six children raised by a single mother who worked as a nurse. Through her job, his mother knew many people who were disabled, sick and homebound. Others, she met through their church.

Despite her heavy workload, Floyd said, his mother always found the time and money to deliver groceries to the less fortunate.

“We were not wealthy,” he said, “but she would always find a way to help out.”

Garry Floyd cheers on participants in OPPD's Heat the Streets Run & Walk for Warmth.
If you’ve participated in OPPD’s Heat the Streets Run & Walk for Warmth, you may have been cheered on by Garry Floyd. His enthusiastic encouragement helps runners and walkers keep going. Photos by Danielle Beebe-Iske

Floyd earned a two-year degree in business administration from Southwestern Christian College, a private school in Texas affiliated with the Church of Christ, then found a job at the nearby Moen faucet company. Before long, the company transferred him to another facility in Kinston, North Carolina.

Floyd, a former Boy Scout, enjoyed the work but wanted something more in life – a cause, a sense of mission. He sold most of his possessions and enlisted in the Air Force, which sent him to Saudi Arabia, for Operation Desert Fox. Floyd served as a chaplain and counseled young service members who needed help. Back in the states, the military assigned him to Offutt Air Force Base.

At his new home in Bellevue, Floyd earned a four-year degree in business management from Bellevue University. He met the woman who would become his wife. When he finally left the service, the Air Force offered to send him anywhere in the United States.

Floyd considered his options. There was something about Nebraskans – their friendliness, hospitality and openness – that appealed to him.

“Omaha has blessed me in so many ways,” he recalled thinking. “I’m going to hang my hat right here.”

Immersing in the community

Floyd’s faith also drives him. As a member of the Church of Christ, he attends services regularly, teaches youngsters and credits the church for much of his growth.

“Religion instills in you a need to value people,” Floyd said.

In his free time, which is rare, Floyd drives to a remote state park near Valentine, Nebraska, at least once a year. There, on the winding banks of the Niobrara River, he tent-camps, cooks meals on a skillet and kayaks.

To relax, Floyd crochets, a skill he learned from his mother, and knits, a talent acquired in Omaha. Both hobbies are fun, nurturing, a creative release. He also bakes bread, entrees and desserts and shares them with his employees.

Garry Floyd runs during OPPD's Heat the Streets Run & Walk for Warmth. Photo by Danielle Beebe-Iske
In his down time, Garry Floyd runs regularly and follows a Zumba exercise program. Photo by Danielle Beebe-Iske

He’s also health conscious, runs regularly and follows a Zumba exercise program. Floyd has participated in Berkshire Hathaway’s Invest in Yourself 5K race every year since its inception, except for 2020, when it was canceled due to the pandemic.

At work, Floyd is energetic and outgoing, said Jessica Porter, Floyd’s direct manager at OPPD and the director of TS Service Management. A co-worker once nicknamed him “Mayor Garry,” a nod to his friendly demeanor and deep involvement in the community.

“Garry is very much in touch with his soul,” Porter said. “If he’s ever had a bad day, I’ve never seen it. He always turns negative things into a positive. He’s just so uplifting when you’re around him, it makes you smile.”

Alesha Walker, an OPPD change integration manager, met Floyd in 2020 as his supervisor back when he worked part-time. When she started in her role, Walker noticed right away that he was personable and compassionate, but also honest, giving her helpful feedback as a manager.

“He was always ready to go when OPPD called,” she said. “It was something he really enjoyed doing, and he was very proud of his work.”

A ‘zen’ room at Energy Plaza

On the eighth floor of OPPD’s Energy Plaza is a corner office full of plants: succulents, orchids, purple passion plants, angel-wing begonias. Each plant has a story and a name: Shrek, Monty, Animal, Jade, Panda, and on and on.

Floyd converted the office after the pandemic sent most OPPD office workers home. He uses the room to meditate, to discuss work matters with his employees, and to revive the struggling plants that friends and coworkers give him. Once, a coworker brought him six plants she found on the street. Floyd tends them regularly, often on weekends.

“That’s where I zen out and remind myself of who I’m thankful for, who has gotten me through the week at OPPD,” he said. “I have a lot of people to thank each week, because everybody’s doing things to help each other. No man is an island.”

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About Grant Schulte

Grant Schulte joined OPPD as a content generalist in 2022. He is a former reporter for The Associated Press, where he covered the Nebraska Legislature, state politics and other news for a global audience. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and a proud Hawkeye. In his free time he enjoys running, reading, spending time with his wife, and all things aviation.

View all posts by Grant Schulte >

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