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Celebrating & Supporting Public Power Apprentices

Happy National Apprenticeship Week! It’s our annual opportunity to celebrate apprentices and highlight the importance of apprenticeship programs.

Celebrating and supporting apprentices isn’t new at ElectriCities. Through our career development programs, hundreds of apprentice lineworkers, meter technicians, and substation technicians throughout ElectriCities member communities have gained and are gaining the skills and expertise needed to work safely and advance their careers by achieving journeyworker certification.

Craig Batchelor, Manager of Safety and Training at ElectriCities, says, “My hope is that every apprentice lineworker, meter technician, and substation technician who gets hired in any of our member communities enters one of our career development programs for apprentices. Along with providing top-of-the-line training, these programs teach safety first.”

ElectriCities’ development programs for apprentices include:

Apprentice Lineworker Program – In this four-level program, lineworker apprentices complete 72 online modules, eight in-person ElectriCities safety schools, and hands-on tests at the end of each school to gain comprehensive knowledge about installing, repairing, and maintaining overhead and underground electric systems. Participants gain an understanding of electricity and, in the more advanced levels, gain supervisory experience and knowledge of complex electric operations.

Overhead Lineworker Career Development Program – In this four-level program, lineworker apprentices complete approximately 60 online modules and four in-person ElectriCities safety schools to learn to install, repair, and maintain overhead electric systems. They gain an understanding of electricity and, in the more advanced levels, gain supervisory experience and knowledge of complex electric operations.

Meter Technician Career Development Program – This three-level program enables meter technicians at all experience levels to learn to test, install, repair, and maintain customer watt-hour meters. Participants learn about AMI technology and, in the more advanced levels, gain knowledge of complex polyphase metering.

Substation Career Development Program – In this four-level program, substation technicians learn the skills needed to handle technical substation responsibilities, including how to install, repair, and maintain all components of an electric substation. They gain an understanding of electricity and, in the more advanced levels, gain supervisory experience and knowledge of complex devices and switching orders located in substations and throughout the electric systems.

All programs require on-the-job training that supervisors must sign off on.

The newest and most comprehensive of the four training programs is the Apprentice Lineworker Program.

“We created the Apprentice Lineworker Program to provide members an option for more robust apprentice lineworker training,” Batchelor said. “Along with more online and in-person training, plus hands-on tests along the way, the program simplifies the process for member communities since ElectriCities handles the state registration process.”

Since the program opened to ElectriCities member communities in 2019, about half of them have moved from the Overhead Lineworker Career Development Program to the Apprentice Lineworker Program.

ElectriCities’ Jeff Freeman presents Lexington’s Brent Pope with a plaque celebrating his completion of the ElectriCities Apprentice Lineworker Program

In May 2022, City of Lexington lineworker Brent Pope became one of the first graduates of the ElectriCities Apprentice Lineworker Program. He’d been working his way through the overhead program when Lexington Utilities transitioned to the Apprentice Lineworker Program.

After initially being apprehensive about the switch since it meant retaking some classes, Pope said he’s glad he stuck with it.

“It’s definitely about education and trying to make yourself better,” he said. “It might be a few more modules and a few more steps, but it’s worth it in the long run.”

He added, “The thing I enjoyed most was getting the different experiences, different skillsets, and different mindsets, not only from the instructors but from other students in the class.”
That’s by design, says ElectriCities Senior Safety and Training Specialist Jeff Freeman. “We try to make the schools so they’re compatible with every student across our member communities, covering all the skills that pertain to the smallest and largest utilities.”

Pope says the program is beneficial now, and he knows it will be in the future. It provides opportunities for people who may want to get into linework but are leery if they lack experience, he said.

ElectriCities’ Batchelor agrees. “That applies to all ElectriCities apprentice programs,” he said. “During National Apprenticeship Week, we thank our participating member communities and apprentices for helping us create a culture of safety through training.”

To learn more about ElectriCities’ career development programs, contact Craig Batchelor, ElectriCities Manager of Safety and Training, or your ElectriCities safety and training specialist.

Kip Padgett Joins ElectriCities Board

Welcome Wake Forest Town Manager Kip Padgett to the ElectriCities Board of Directors!

Padgett joined the board in July, and we recently caught up with him to learn a little more about his background, his thoughts on public power, and what he hopes to accomplish in the coming years.

Years before he moved from his home state of Georgia in 2015 to become Wake Forest’s town manager, Padgett was already connected to North Carolina. His wife and her family are from the eastern part of the state.

Kip Padgett, Wake Forest Town Manager and new member of ElectriCities Board of Directors

And, though he was familiar with public power in Georgia, this is the first time he has served in a town that owns and operates its electric system.

“The more I looked into it, I saw the value of public power and what it brings to our community,” Padgett said. Seeing the benefits of the town’s relationship with other public power providers and ElectriCities inspired him to get more involved by serving on the board.

When it comes to public power’s value, Padgett says public power’s record of reliability and the connectedness of public power providers stand out.

The relationships with all the different public power agencies, not just in North Carolina but throughout the nation, mean “we’re always there to help each other and keep the lights on,” he said. “We bring that value to our customers—we’re able to keep the lights on or get them on more quickly when they go out, compared to our counterparts.”

Padgett said being an ElectriCities member adds to that value. “All we get from working with ElectriCities we couldn’t do by ourselves,” he said. “The economic development, the technical assistance, the lobbying … it’s invaluable for what it brings, not just to the Town of Wake Forest, but also to all the citizens who are our public power customers.”

Looking ahead, Padgett said Duke Energy’s Carolinas Carbon Plan is something he’s keenly interested in. “It’s going to have an impact on all of us, not just through rates, but through regulations too,” he said. “It’s important to have a seat at the table when those decisions are being made to make sure it’s what’s best for our customers.”

Along with his more than 25 years of public service, Padgett brought to North Carolina his love for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. “I’m a BIG Georgia Bulldog fan,” he told us. Having a son who goes to N.C. State is not likely to change that—it just means he’ll pull for the Wolfpack as well. The jury’s out on who he cheers for if the two play each other.

Padgett joins 15 public power peers on the ElectriCities Board of Directors, including the newly elected and re-elected members and officers who were sworn in earlier this year. Collectively, they advise and direct the activities and policies for North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number One, North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency, and ElectriCities. Each board member serves a three-year term.

“It’s a real honor to serve on the board,” he said “My fellow board members are all great and have the best interest of all our public power communities in mind. And we couldn’t ask for better staff to support us than we have at ElectriCities.”

Nick Hendricks Awarded for Distinguished Service

Each year at the ElectriCities Annual Conference, we recognize individuals for their outstanding contributions to public power. At the 2022 conference:

  • Nick Hendricks received the Distinguished Service Award.
  • Tyler Berrier received the Rising Star Award.
  • Stephen Peeler received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Let’s meet and celebrate this year’s 2022 Distinguished Service Award winner, Nick Hendricks.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes leaders with 10 or more years of experience who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to public power, brought their organization to a new level of excellence, led by example, and inspired their employees and staff to improve processes, services, and operations.

Coworkers, friends, and family celebrate 2022 Public Power Distinguished Service Award winner Nick Hendricks

Nick Hendricks is undoubtedly one of those leaders.

More than 35 years ago, Hendricks joined the City of Kings Mountain’s Energy Department as a lineworker, and he never left.

Fueled by his love for the city, his dedication to improving the lives of its residents, and his commitment to ensuring the safety of electric department employees, Hendricks made his way to Director of Electric Utilities, Director of Energy Services, and then Assistant City Manager. He retired from the City on August 31, 2022.

He has served the public power community in many ways over the years, including a six-year stint on the ElectriCities Board of Directors. He has been the Alternate Commissioner for the Non-Power Agency Board of Commissioners since 1998, and he chairs the Lineman Career Development Committee.

Always quick to respond to calls for mutual aid, Hendricks has led crews to help folks recover from all sorts of disasters across North Carolina, throughout the southeast, and up north, where he worked on the snowy side of Hurricane Sandy.

Nick is a tremendous advocate for safety and training. He has a passion for ensuring that lineworkers stay safe on the job, and he has taught several to do that over the years—both on the job and as a course instructor. His team knows that when it comes to electricity, Hendricks says, “If we can’t work it safe, we’re not going to do it.”

He’s a conscientious leader—always considering how his decisions affect everyone, not just a few. Not one to cut corners, Hendricks has told his employees, “We don’t have to be first, but we’ll be the first to do it right.”

Though the City of Kings Mountain gifted him a rocking chair for his retirement, we can’t imagine him using it much. Well, unless he can continue to serve his community while rocking away.

Congratulations, Nick!

Now, meet the 2022 Rising Star Award winner, Tyler Berrier, and the 2022 Public Power Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Steve Peeler.

Supply chain issues are real for the electric industry. What is public power doing to help?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. has faced a major supply chain crisis, and the electric utility sector has been hard-hit. Supply chain constraints affect both the availability and cost of critical components required to provide reliable electric service to American consumers and business.

The public power community is responding. Many of those responsible for keeping the lights on in 72 North Carolina public power communities met in Raleigh Sept. 8 to discuss the ongoing supply chain constraints affecting the electric sector. The discussion among members of the ElectriCities Utility Director Advisory Committee followed a briefing held the week prior by public power’s national trade association, the American Public Power Association (APPA). At that briefing, APPA staff and members of the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council’s (ESCC) Supply Chain Tiger Team, a nationwide team staffed by utility experts convened by the Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security, discussed crucial sections of the supply chain shortage and how to navigate workable solutions.

Some of the primary areas of concern include distribution transformers, conductors, utility poles, and large transformers. Utilities seeking to acquire all of these components are seeing significant delays and steep price increases: a pad-mount distribution transformer, for example, now costs close to three times more than it did pre-pandemic and lead times for delivery have increased by 12 months. Large transformer manufacturing will also have major long-term issues, with demand expected to double by 2027 and the steel industry already hitting maximum capacity.

This backlog can be credited in part to a shortage in labor and parts, but it is being exacerbated by a growing need for equipment driven by population growth, abundance of infrastructure funding, broadband deployment, and pole attachment shot clocks increasing demand at a level that production cannot maintain.

The ESCC Tiger Team is conducting a survey that includes public power organizations and manufacturers, to identify long-term and short-term remedies. Mitigating actions suggested by the team include temporarily changing standards to ease the burden of some of these constraints, sharing and encouraging folks in the industry to participate in the survey, and utilities sharing information and equipment, when possible, to help ease the burdens.

Following the APPA briefing, we spoke with John Maclaga, member of the ESCC’s Supply Chain Tiger Team and assistant director of Wilson Energy in Wilson, North Carolina, and asked some questions. His answers are paraphrased below, with the caveat that the briefing only allowed time for speakers to scratch the surface of the issues.

What supply chain issue do you believe is most concerning for public power in North Carolina?

Shortages of distribution transformers are a threat to both growth and ability to respond to outages. Meter bases, wire, connectors, meters, regulators, relays, substation transformers, and even humble wooden poles have been impacted by supply shocks.

Do you think public power communities in N.C. have worked well together to aid each other during these constraints?

Through ElectriCities, we have jointly purchased over 1,000 transformers. We got a relatively decent price, but only one quote from one company. We should continue to look for opportunities to do joint purchases.

What else can you tell us?

Conserving supply, recovering “lost” equipment on the system, getting used equipment refurbished, and seeking traditional and non-traditional suppliers and alternative parts or construction methods are best bets for getting through this situation individually.

Maclaga spoke about the concerns voiced during the APPA briefing to members who attended ElectriCities’ recent Utility Director Advisory Committee meeting. There was consensus among attendees that public power agencies will need to continue to work together to manage supply chain constraints in the near and distant future.

Utility directors and others continue to meet on these issues, and more information on supply chain constraints can be found on APPA’s website, here.

Tyler Berrier Named a Public Power Rising Star

Each year at the ElectriCities Annual Conference, we recognize individuals for their outstanding contributions to public power. At the 2022 conference:

  • Tyler Berrier received the Rising Star Award.
  • Nick Hendricks received the Distinguished Service Award.
  • Stephen Peeler received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
2022 Public Power Rising Star Award winner Tyler Berrier with Vice Chair of the ElectriCities Board, Randy McCaslin (left), High Point City Manager Tasha Logan Ford, and High Point Assistant City Manager Eric Olmedo

Let’s meet and celebrate the 2022 Rising Star Award winner, Tyler Berrier.

The Rising Star Award recognizes up-and-coming leaders who have less than 10 years of experience and who, in that relatively short time, have made significant and sustained contributions to the electric utility industry and to public power.

Berrier is most definitely that type of leader.

He started as a civil engineer in the City of High Point’s public services department in 2014 and worked his way up to Assistant Director of Electric Utilities for the City—a position he’s held since July 2018. Make that: a position he held from July 2018 until August 2022.

See, while presenting Berrier’s award at the conference, Randy McCaslin, who is a long-time High Point city leader and current Vice Chair of the ElectriCities Board of Directors, announced Berrier’s promotion to High Point’s Electric Utilities Director.

Rising star indeed. Cue the confetti!

From the outset, Berrier has been a leader in the department and the City. He helped guide technological advances, such as creating an online streetlight outage reporting system, and he has been one of the key leaders of the AMI project the City kicked off this year.

“Tyler’s not afraid to take on challenges and has always exhibited a willingness to learn,” said Assistant City Manager Eric Olmedo. “More important than anything, though, are his manner and personality. He’s very calm, collected, and rational, and he really thinks about the big picture when he’s talking about the electric utility in particular, but then also how that fits in within the City as a whole.”

Congratulations, Tyler!

Now, meet the 2022 Distinguished Service Award winner, Nick Hendricks, and the 2022 Public Power Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Steve Peeler.

Stephen Peeler Awarded for a Lifetime of Outstanding Service

Each year at the ElectriCities Annual Conference, we recognize individuals for their outstanding contributions to public power. At the 2022 conference:

  • Stephen Peeler received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Nick Hendricks received the Distinguished Service Award.
  • Tyler Berrier received the Rising Star Award.

Let’s give a huge shout of congratulations to the 2022 Public Power Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Stephen Peeler.

2022 Public Power Lifetime Achievement Award winner Stephen Peeler, surrounded by his family, including his wife, Suzanne (on his right)

The Public Power Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes sustained long-term outstanding leadership, public power service, innovation, and creativity. A role model to many, Peeler has demonstrated all that and more.

When presenting Peeler’s award, ElectriCities board chair Donald Evans said, “I’ve known and worked with Steve for a long time. Anybody who has will tell you that he puts his heart and soul into his work, and that’s to the benefit of many.”

Peeler’s commitment to public power and service to North Carolina public power communities began more than 30 years ago when he joined the City of Lincolnton after 20 years with Duke Energy.

He has selflessly given his time and talent to many community and professional organizations in the City of Lincolnton, Lincoln County, and statewide. He served on the North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1 Board of Commissioners for 28 years and currently serves on the Agency 1 Rate Committee.

In 2019, after serving as Lincolnton’s Public Works and Utilities Director for 30 years, Peeler retired from the City. But he didn’t stop supporting public power. He continued his service on the ElectriCities Board of Directors, even serving as board chair in 2020 and 2021.

At the conference, Chairman Evans said, “Whatever Steve is doing, he’s doing it for the good of everyone.” Peeler has said as much, telling another long-time public power champion, Dan Brown, that his work on the board isn’t only about his community’s interests. It’s about the interests of the group and everyone that group represents.

On receiving the award, Peeler said, “I could have filled that stage with people who had a part in helping, pulling, or pushing me. You can’t soar like an eagle if you’re surrounded by a bunch of turkeys—sometimes you even ride on their wings.”

Congratulations, Mr. Peeler!

Now, meet the 2022 Distinguished Service Award winner, Nick Hendricks, and the 2022 Rising Star Award winner, Tyler Berrier.

Building Public Power’s Future at the 2022 Annual Conference

Thank you to everyone who attended and participated in the 2022 ElectriCities Annual Conference, August 8-10. What a productive few days in Cherokee!

ElectriCities CEO Roy Jones kicked off the conference by unveiling the plan for moving public power into 2030 and beyond. He told attendees, “Decades ago, leaders made choices that made our public power communities stronger. We have an opportunity now to build public power’s future.”

He shared five strategic priorities for public power in our region:

Future-focused: Develop a future-focused mindset. Strengthen Public Power: Build public and political support for public power. Provide Superior Power: Deliver reliable, affordable, and sustainable electric power. Customer-centered Innovation: Innovate and invest to better serve our customers and communities. People: Leverage our people as our greatest asset.

In panel discussions and breakout sessions throughout the conference, we dove deeper into the components of the strategic plan and discussed actions we can take to get where we need to go.

A highlight of the conference each year is the Silent Auction benefitting the Fallen Linemen Foundation. This year’s attendees didn’t disappoint, participating to raise $8,045 for the foundation—the most ever collected!

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper addresses ElectriCities Annual Conference attendees.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper surprised attendees, stopping by to tell them how proud he is of the good work public power providers are doing to the benefit of their customers and communities.

We highlighted some of that good work, recognizing three individuals for their outstanding contributions to public power:

  • Tyler Berrier received the 2022 Rising Star Award.
  • Nick Hendricks received the 2022 Distinguished Service Award.
  • Steve Peeler received the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.

On the last morning of the conference, ElectriCities board chair Donald Evans addressed attendees, reminding everyone that the public power strategic plan is “based on input from all of us, and it’s to the benefit of all of us. That’s why it’s vitally important we all play an active role in helping to carry out this strategic plan.”

A big thank you to attendees for the excellent feedback and thoughtful engagement throughout the conference.

We look forward to working together to help ensure we achieve the ambitious, yet attainable, vision for public power in our region.

 

ElectriCities Safety & Training Supervisor Receives Public Power Service Award

The American Public Power Association (APPA) has honored Kenny Roberts, Supervisor of Safety & Training and mutual aid coordinator at ElectriCities, with the Harold Kramer-John Preston Personal Service Award. The award recognizes individuals for their service to APPA.

Roberts accepted the award on June 14 at the APPA National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I’m humbled and honored,” he said. “I’m thankful that I’ve been able to spend my entire career working in public power and helping public power communities serve the people who live there.”

Roberts began his career as a groundsman at Huntsville Utilities in Alabama and worked his way up to supervisor. He also served as mutual aid coordinator and as lead instructor for the utility’s apprenticeship program. Roberts retired after 30 years at Huntsville Utilities, but he wasn’t ready to leave public power.

“I wanted to keep contributing to our industry,” he said. “I’m a lifelong fan of public power and the value it brings to the communities it serves. I wanted to continue to serve public power

And that he did.

In 2017, Roberts joined ElectriCities. As Supervisor of Safety & Training, he works with nearly 100 municipalities in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia to help oversee and develop safety and training programs for their lineworkers. He also serves as the statewide municipal mutual aid coordinator, connecting crews who need help with crews who can help in the wake of disasters or other issues that damage electric systems.

Kenny Roberts accepts the Harold Kramer-John Preston Personal Service Award from Tony Cannon, chair of APPA’s Awards Committee and General Manager/CEO of GUC (left), and Colin Hansen, APPA board chair and CEO of the Kansas Power Pool (right). Photo courtesy of APPA.

Roberts has been a member of APPA’s Mutual Aid Working Group since 2011 and serves as a national regional coordinator. He served on APPA’s Reliable Public Power Provider Review Panel from 2013 to 2014, and he’s a former chair and vice chair of both APPA’s Safety Committee and Engineering & Operations Section. Roberts has served on APPA’s DEED board since 2015 and currently serves as vice chair. He is a member of the Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo executive committee and serves as Journeyman Master Judge, and he serves on the Safety Manual Revision Task Force.

“Public power is a culture—it’s a family,” Roberts said. “It’s not just a paycheck or a job. It’s service. It’s devotion and dedication to helping other parts of your family do a better job doing what they’re doing.”

From all of us at ElectriCities, thank you, Kenny, for your years of service and tireless dedication to public power. Congratulations on this well-deserved award!

 

Kenny Roberts with coworkers, friends, and family, left to right: Andy Fusco, ElectriCities Vice President, Member Services & Corporate Planning; Craig Batchelor, ElectriCities Manager, Safety& Training; John Worrell, GUC Director of Electric Systems; Kenny’s wife, Kathy Roberts; ElectriCities CEO Roy Jones.

Shelby & Greenville Score Downtown Grants

Congratulations to the North Carolina public power cities of Shelby and Greenville, recipients of ElectriCities Downtown Revitalization Grants for spring 2022. Each community will receive $10,000 to help achieve its downtown revitalization goals—Shelby for its Uptown Depot Restoration project and Greenville for its Emerald Loop Artistic Lighting Plan, which is part of a larger development, the Emerald Loop.

Shelby’s Uptown Depot Restoration Project
The City of Shelby will use its grant funds to complete a study to determine the best use of its historic railroad depot that sits along its developing Carolina Harmony Trail.

The single-story, 6,000-square-foot depot, previously known as the Norfolk-Southern Railway Depot, is a contributing structure in the Central Shelby National Register Historic District. With its early 20th-century structure and location on the Carolina Harmony Trail, the depot is an economic development opportunity for Uptown Shelby that’s part of the bigger Carolina Harmony Trail project, said Shelby City Manager Rick Howell.

Rendering of Shelby’s restored train depot, courtesy of Uptown Shelby Association. Click to enlarge.

The City of Shelby purchased the retired Norfolk-Southern rail corridor that’s located through the corporate limits of the city. The City has fully engineered the northern 1.2 miles of the rail trail, recently named the Carolina Harmony Trail.

“The Carolina Harmony Trail provides an opportunity for renewal and revitalization of Uptown Shelby,” said Howell. “It will strengthen community connections and spur economic growth by creating a significant recreation, community, and tourism asset that attracts residents and visitors to Shelby, southern Cleveland County, and the region, and restoring the depot is a big part of that.”

Carl Rees, ElectriCities Economic and Community Development Manager, said, “It’s an additional piece of the tapestry that’s making Uptown Shelby one of the most picturesque downtowns in the North Carolina foothills.”

Greenville’s Emerald Loop Project
The City of Greenville, designated a SmART City by the North Carolina Arts Council in 2018, will use its Downtown Revitalization Grant to fund part of its Emerald Loop Artistic Lighting Plan.

The lighting project is part of the larger Emerald Loop Vision Plan, which came about in partnership with the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge and community stakeholders. The group’s goal was to create a project that would transform Greenville’s downtown through the arts.

“The Emerald Loop is a multimodal urban arts trail—a conceptual necklace—connecting Greenville’s artistic, cultural, and community gems, while bringing together the surrounding neighborhoods and communities,” said Kathy Howard, Business Development Specialist at Greenville Utilities Commission, which provides electricity for the City of Greenville. “The grant will help us implement the overall lighting plan, which involves adding programmable colorful LED lighting to several downtown buildings, starting with the radio tower on 5th Street.”

Conceptual design of illuminated buildings on Greenville’s Emerald Loop, courtesy of Pitt County Arts Council. Click to enlarge.

In Phase I of the project, the team has designated 11 buildings and structures for artistic lighting, including the city hall, county courthouse, and a new boutique hotel.

Along with the artistic lighting plan, main components of the Emerald Loop project include:

  • Intersection gateway murals
  • The Emerald Express, an “art on wheels” trolley system
  • Trolley stops and sheltered benches

“This is an arts master plan for Greenville’s downtown area, as well as an economic development strategy based off the SmART Communities designation that demonstrates how the arts transform downtowns and fuel sustainable economic development,” said Holly Garriott, Executive Director of Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge, who is serving as project manager for the Emerald Loop planning process. “This is truly a partnership between the public and private sectors, with funding assistance provided by several stakeholders as well as the National Endowment for the Arts, North Carolina Arts Council, and other foundations and grants like this one from ElectriCities.”

The next cycle for ElectriCities Downtown Revitalization Grants opens in October 2022. Learn more about them and other ways ElectriCities’ Economic Development team can help you spark growth in your public power community here.