Fifty Years of Safety, Friendship

April 25, 2018

Kenny James has experienced a lot during his 50 years of service at Ohio Edison – restoring power during the Great Blizzard of 1978, which caused extensive damage to our electrical system; traveling out of town to provide mutual assistance to other utilities; and, adapting to enhancements in operating procedures and safety equipment. But through all the changes, one thing has remained constant – the camaraderie he has with his coworkers.

“After spending 30 or 40 years working with a group of people, you tend to get to know them,” says Kenny, supervisor, Regional Operations. “We work hard together and watch out for each other’s safety, and we’ve created lifelong friendships in the process.”

Kenny spent his first year with the company as a “grounds-man” – an employee who provided ground support to line workers. He then stepped away from his career to serve overseas as a U.S. Marine. After returning home, he went back to Ohio Edison and spent the next 20 years as a line worker, then was promoted to his current position.

“During my early years as a lineman, we didn’t have bucket trucks, so we had to climb all the poles we worked on,” recalls Kenny. “It really heightened your sense of safety because if you got hurt on top of a pole, there was no easy way to get back down.”

Although personal protective equipment requirements have changed over the years, Kenny says that safety was always important at Ohio Edison. “Luckily, the senior line workers I learned from were very safety conscious, and they emphasized the importance of protecting yourself from injury. Plus, I wanted to make it home to see my family every day.”

As he reflects on his five decades of service, what Kenny values most are the relationships he’s formed with coworkers. “Heading out of town to provide mutual assistance was always a fun bonding experience,” he says. “It was a lot of work and long hours, but you really got to know the guys you were working with.”

Even after 50 years, Kenny still loves his job and doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon. Although now, his focus has shifted to passing on his vast knowledge of the utility industry to the next generation of line workers.

“A lot of our new hires are from the Power Systems Institute program, and I work closely with them every day,” continues Kenny. “My main goal is to teach the younger employees how to work on the equipment, how to protect themselves from injury, and how to mature and grow into their role with the company.”

According to Daryl Lindemann, general manager, Regional Operations Services, Kenny always has had a good rapport with his coworkers. “Kenny is really a family-oriented guy – not just at home but also with his ‘work’ family at Ohio Edison,” says Daryl. “He has a kind personality and is patient, so younger employees feel comfortable approaching him with questions or asking for advice. He also is very focused on safety, and he passes that focus onto the new hires he works with.”