Arizona District Manager Debra Sheridan Celebrates 25th Anniversary at CES
Before her 25-year career at City Electric Supply, before she became only the second female to run her own district in the company, Debra Sheridan started out as an interior electrician in the Air Force at just 17 years old.
“I was a hard worker,” she reflected. “Because I was a woman, I had to work harder than the men. I had to prove myself.”
For the next four years, Debra proved herself alright. She was doing so well in the Air Force that she thought about making it her career. But she and her husband, who were both serving, went back home to Western New York to be near family.
After that, Debra thought her electrical career ended. She worked at an ice cream plant as a production supervisor for the next nine years, but always wanted to get back into the field as an electrician.
And then she got her chance.
In 1993, Debra Sheridan and her husband moved to Florida. Her husband went to school for HVAC and started a career in that field, and she got back in the field and earned her journeyman’s license at Watts Electric, a local contractor. She remembers City Electric Supply was busy, even back then.
“I came into City Electric Supply so much they let me pull my own orders,” she laughed. “Every time I went, the branch manager at CES Stuart would try to hire me.”
Not just once or twice, but a few times.
“He talked about CES all the time,” she added. “Saying how it was such a great company, that there was a lot of opportunity, and that if I missed the field, I could always go back. He just kept bugging me about it.”
The bugging worked. Debra Sheridan took a chance when an operations manager position opened, and it didn’t take long for her to prove that she wasn’t just good out in the field, she was pretty good at being an operations manager.
“I wanted to give it a try,” she said. “I loved the people there, and I loved what I was doing.”
That decision started her down the path that would move her around Florida and eventually to Arizona, where she now runs her own district. But it wasn’t always easy, especially being a woman in a field dominated by men.
“Oh, they challenged me a lot,” she said. “Some older gentlemen set in their ways, they’d come in and say, ‘This woman doesn’t know anything.’ Then, they’d ask me how to wire a three-way switch and other things, so I answered their questions.”
Eventually, they got the hint and realized that she knew what she was doing.
“They gave me respect,” she said. “That happened in the field, too. Electricians would see a woman and think, ‘Oh, okay.’ But I worked harder than any of them and proved myself.”
Her hard work was rewarded, not just with respect, but also with opportunity. She spent four years at CES Stuart as the operations manager before her promotion to branch manager at CES Jupiter, and then CES Port St. Lucie.
“I knew all the customers at Port St. Lucie because Stuart and Port St. Lucie weren’t very far away from each other,” she said. “Back then, it wasn’t very hard to grow the business because things were booming.”
Then came her big break in 2005 with the opportunity she dreamed of: a promotion to district manager. However, it wasn’t in Florida. It was in an up-and-coming district on the other side of the U.S.
“Arizona,” Debra said. “I thought I’d stay in Florida, but CES needed another district manager to oversee Phoenix West.”
So, she hopped on a flight. It took 10 years of hard work to get to this moment, and she wasn’t going to let anything stop her.
Earning It, Again
And then 2008 happened. In three short years, the recession changed everything, including Debra’s title. She found herself running her own branch again, and throughout the next few years, Debra moved across several locations before landing at CES Phoenix North in 2012.
“By that point, Phoenix North already had about nine branch managers,” she said. “Customers would ask, ‘How long are you going to last?’ I had to prove yet again that I was here to stay. At the time, I was with CES for 17 years. I told them I was dedicated and that we were building something special in Arizona.”
Whether customers believed her or not, they took her at her word. Debra Sheridan stayed at CES Phoenix North for another five years, stabilizing the branch and turning a profit for the first time in its history.
“In 2017, I was asked to be the district manager over the Phoenix West district again,” she smiled. “This time I hope it’s for good.”
Debra Sheridan’s Reason Why
For Debra Sheridan, she had a lot of moments where she could’ve gone back into the field. What made her stick with City Electric Supply through promotions and recessions and promotions again?
Well, she believed in the company. During her time in Florida, she had hundreds of memories that stuck with her, but one in particular came to mind about the late CEO and Founder Tom Mackie.
“One day in the early 2000s, CES Stuart was very busy,” she recalled. “We had customers in and out of the store, running orders, and cutting wire. Well, at one point, this gentleman in a suit and tie walked in. He noticed our sales rep was cutting wire in the back, so he just takes off his jacket, rolls up his sleeves, and asks, ‘How can I help you, son?’”
“That was the first time I met Mr. Mackie,” she laughed. “And that’s just one of the stories I have about him. He was a very inspiring man. You could listen to him talk for hours, but you could also listen to him through his actions. He did whatever he needed to do to help.”
All that to say, Debra understood in that moment what City Electric Supply was. Since then, she has convinced some of her own family to join the CES family.
Her sister, Kathy, works at CES Port St. Lucie. Her niece, Kristen, worked at the same branch before moving to TAMCO. Even her nephew, George, works at CES Stuart, which Debra believes has more to do with Kathy and Kristen than herself.
“It wasn’t hard to sell CES to these guys,” she said. “It’s a great company to work for.”
Debra Sheridan Looks Ahead after 25 Years
You don’t become one of the only two female district managers in an entire company without feeling a bit of pride.
“I feel proud every time a branch manager introduces me to a customer,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re the district manager? How long have you been with CES?’ Now, I get to say I’ve been here for 25 years and it is a great company to work for. It feels great and I am really proud of what I’ve done. I worked very hard to get to this position.”
And even though she feels great about her career, Debra Sheridan doesn’t have her eyes set on the past. She’s full speed ahead.
“Now, my challenge is inspiring, guiding, and motivating my six branches,” she said. “We’re opening the seventh in my district this year. Every day, I look forward to seeing what I can do to make my district more successful.”
And it all started because she and VP of Operations Dan Williams put in a lot of work to help grow City Electric Supply in Arizona.
“In the beginning, Dan Williams and I had to sell this company to new potential staff in Arizona,” she said. “Vendors didn’t want to deal with us, and customers didn’t know who we were. Through our journeys and our experiences, we helped build this company up in Arizona, and now it’s taking off.”
And to this day, Debra credits Dan with a lot of the success they’re having now.
“When 2008 and 2009 hit, Dan Williams kept us all together and motivated us to work hard for CES,” she said. “The branches were all one team, proving ourselves to the customers and the vendors. We have all come a long way.”
Debra has seen firsthand just how far they’ve come, and her long 25-year career that led her to becoming district manager, which comes with its own rewards. She loves what she does because of the impact she can have on the employees in her branches.
“We’ve come a long way in just a few years,” she said. “A lot of branches didn’t know what it was like to get a nice bonus and now they do. For employees to come to you and say you helped me put a down payment on a home — that’s heartwarming.”
“You’re able to help them and help their families,” she added. “That alone makes this entire journey worth it.”