OUR ESSENTIAL WORKERS KEEP YOUR COMMUNITY POWERED
No matter what hits us, whether it’s a pandemic, hurricane, or wildfire, the men and women of public power are on the front lines, delivering affordable, reliable electricity to 30 million Americans.
TAKING CARE OF OUR OWN
At an electric utility, safety is more than a buzzword. It’s a way of life. But in 2020, safety has moved beyond operations to also protecting our workers from the pandemic. To keep our essential workers safe, public power utilities stay on top of the latest recommendations from the CDC, stagger shifts for generation, transmission, and distribution crews, and implement new hygiene protocols and innovative testing procedures.
TAKING CARE OF OUR COMMUNITIES
Communities are at the heart of our public power mission, and we step up to help our neighbors when they need us. This year, that meant providing financial relief and flexibility for our customers and creating online STEM education resources for kids learning from home, like lesson plans, videos, and fun DIY science activities.
Click on an essential public power worker below to hear more about how they keep your community powered.
Journeyman Cable Splicer Electrician
As a journeyman cable splicer electrician for SMUD, Heather Andersen is responsible for keeping the lights on in Sacramento, including at the California State Capitol. Beginning her career at the age of 20, Heather completed a four-year apprenticeship at SMUD and now has almost a decade of experience under her tool belt. You can normally find her down underground, splicing cable, making sure things get done properly, so the lights stay on in the city. Because Heather's work is critical to keeping things running in Sacramento, she has remained on the job throughout the pandemic. SMUD isolated crews and ramped up the use of personal protective gear to keep both employees and the community safe.
Director of Fleet and Facilities
OUC has a proud history of providing reliable electricity to the cities of Orlando and St. Cloud, along with portions of Orange and Osceola Counties. They have been named Florida’s most reliable electric utility for 22 years in a row, and they remain dedicated to ensuring their customers receive reliable service despite the pandemic. A former firefighter and now OUC’s Director of Fleet and Facilities, Vince Preston is critical to fulfilling this mission. He and his team are front and center of all cleaning and sanitizing throughout OUC workspaces, particularly the utility’s control rooms, which are staffed all day, every day to keep the community’s lights on.
Lead System Operator
While many people spent 2020 working from home, Dan Bigos did the opposite and lived at his place of work. As a a lead system operation with the New York Power Authority (NYPA), Dan is a highly trained essential utility worker responsible for keeping the lights on in New York State. For almost 30 years, Dan has been monitoring system conditions and helping to fix outages whenever they occur. When COVID-19 struck, Dan was one of a handful of employees who left his family and lived on-site at NYPA's operation center. With NYPA generating 25% of the state's power—including for hospitals, state government buildings, airports, and even the New York City subway—it was a sacrifice he was proud to make.
A local manager with NPPD, Steve Derr has been on the front lines of keeping Nebraska powered through any situation for 29 years. During the pandemic, his day to day hasn’t changed a great deal. People need to stay connected, and Steve has made sure that through the numerous storms that have hit Nebraska over the past year, the electricity remains flowing to NPPD’s 89,000 customers. Whether it’s fixing a downed line at Sutherland’s Fourth of July Rodeo or traveling to Iowa after a bad ice storm, Steve is essential to keeping Americans connected and powered.
Meet utility workers essential to their communities
See how these and other utility workers are keeping the lights on for their communities. Featuring workers from SMUD, Santee Cooper, JEA, OUC, IID, NYPA, NPPD and Platte River Power Authority.
Cable Working Foreman
If you’re constructing a new building or structure in Jacksonville, Florida, there’s a good chance you’ll run into essential utility worker Theodric Arline. As a highly skilled Underground Networking Cable Working Foreman, Theodric is JEA’s boots on the ground. He makes sure that transformers are set, cable is pooled, and electrical devices are in place, keeping construction powered throughout the city. As the pandemic continues to impact Jacksonville, Theodric and his team remain out in the community, working to ensure JEA’s 50,000 commercial and industrial customers, which includes life-saving local institutions like hospitals, continue to receive reliable electric power.
Power Plant Manager
As a Power Plant Manager, Somer Mese is essential to ensuring reliable electricity powers her community of Colorado Springs. No day is ever the same for Somer. In her role as manager, she oversees a team of highly-trained workers who are responsible for keeping the lights on for their family, friends and neighbors. Any maintenance or operations issues have to be dealt with swiftly to keep units online and power flowing. Looking to the future, Somer will be front and center as Colorado Springs Utilities retires their coal generation fleet and expands their renewable portfolio and storage capabilities.
Director of Human Resources and Safety
As the Director of Human Resources and Safety, no one has been more involved in Platte River Power Authority’s (PRPA) efforts to help keep employees safe during the pandemic than Libby Clark. As the utility providing electricity to communities across Northern Colorado, many PRPA workers were deemed essential at the beginning of the pandemic and had to remain on-site or out in the field. To keep them safe, Libby implemented new health and safety procedures, redesigned workspaces, and engineered safer work schedules. PRPA’s essential workers are doing everything they can to keep the lights on in Colorado, and Libby is doing everything she can to keep the utility’s workers safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Winyah Generating Station Unit Operator
Jesse Brantley is a vital part of South Carolina’s electric system. As a Unit Operator at Santee Cooper’s Winyah Generating Station, he’s responsible for everything from the coal yard to the electric grid. Jesse is one of a handful of highly trained essential utility workers who makes sure that electricity is generated at Winyah and transmitted to the electric grid, where it is then delivered to homes, businesses and communities. A husband and father, Jesse made the tough call during the pandemic to work 12-hour seven-day long shifts so that the lights stayed on for the 2 million South Carolinians served by Santee Cooper.
For the past five years, Landon Taylor has worked as a Journeyman Lineman for Tacoma Public Utilities. His job takes him up all the utility poles in Tacoma, so not only does he enjoy a great view from his outdoor office, but he gets to work on the electrical transmission lines that keep his community powered. One of the most rewarding aspects of his job as a lineman is that Landon gets to help restore power after an extreme weather event. No matter the hour of the day, lineman are among some of the first to head back out into the community after a storm, hurricane or tornado to get the power back up and running. Utilities do a signifcant amount of planning to prepare for natural disasters, but when a community is hit particularly hard, the industry bands together through the national mutual aid agreement and linemen like Landon travel to help restore power. Just as police officers, fire fighters and other first responders are there for their community when disaster strikes, so too are linemen like Landon who doesn't hesitate to climb up a utility pole and work on transmission cables to get the lights back for everyone.
General Superintendent of Substation Protection and Automation
A 20-year veteran of IID, Jack Dresher has advanced from a technician to general superintendent, so he understands what it takes to keep the power flowing in California’s Imperial Valley. He and his team are responsible for not only taking care of the equipment that protects California’s electric grid but ensuring IID’s operators have visibility into what’s happening on the grid at all times. They’re truly essential to making sure the communities served by IID have reliable electricity around the clock. With this responsibility in mind, Jack implemented strict protocols at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure that his team did everything they could to remain safe while performing their essential duties.