Closed Circuit

​​By Eric Barendsen

WAPA’s leadership programs prepare those who have the desire to seek, to share and to partner. More broadly, they encourage all of the organization’s core values to take root both in the individual and across the organization.

In January 2018, the Craft Leadership Development Program kicked off its second two-year program with a group of 12 participants. They each began a journey that would help take their careers to the next level and give them a major new accomplishment.

The CLDP allows participants to reach beyond the scope of their everyday jobs and develop the leadership traits and skill sets they will need for the next step in their careers. It prepares them for future advancement; broadens their views of the organization, region and industry; and shapes how they adapt to an ever-changing work environment.

“WAPA has captured a best practice to give rise to our future leaders through the development and support of the CLDP,” said Supervisory Maintenance Specialist Steve Tuggle, who oversees the program. “The CLDP provides the ability to advance craftsmen into foreman positions by means of strengthening their leadership skills and competencies.”

All 12 participants graduated and are now better equipped to lead their teams across their functional areas.

On Jan. 30, the graduates gathered at the Hoover Dam spillway and nearby conference rooms—which offered awe-inspiring views of the dam—and delivered their final presentations. Afterward, at the graduation ceremony, Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel revered the camaraderie and dedication required to lead in the craft with a quote from the 2015 film Life on the Line:

“Life is a series of collected moments and experiences that we gather over the course of time,” he recited. “It is more about the quality of life than the height of the climb. We are more than 1 million strong, but together, we act as one. We walk the line whether hurricanes, tornadoes, rain, wind or sun. Our main mission is to protect the grid, even if one of us meets our maker. We are linemen; it is what we do, the credo we chant; you are your brother’s keeper.”

Even though it is focused on linemen, Gabriel said, he believes the quote speaks to every position at WAPA. It reminds us of the critical service we provide the nation and economy.

“Being in the craft is an honor,” said Vice President of Power Marketing at Desert Southwest Jimmy Kendrick. “It is part of a brotherhood, much like that of our servicemen and servicewomen of this country. It is a part of you that will never leave, but during your career in the field, the hunger for more knowledge and our understanding of the industry changes.”

Following that desire for growth, the CLDP graduates made the commitment, took the initiative to pursue continual learning and prepared themselves to move into leadership positions. In turn, their supervisors, the CLDP steering committee and WAPA as a whole made their own commitments and helped them refine their skills, adopt a philosophy of excellence and engage in new experiences toward their developmental goals. This combination of commitment and leadership preparation is what the CLDP was designed to cultivate.

“My personal benefits aside, I realize what a commitment WAPA has to promoting learning and leadership opportunities,” said High Voltage Electrician Kerry Kilen. “I am grateful for my mentor and the steering committee, and experiences including my safety detail on the Carr Fire and work experience with my mentor in a 500-kilovolt yard. I will continue to be an ambassador for the CLDP and support the benefits of networking within my CLDP class, committee and various groups WAPA-wide.”

The foundational competencies of accountability, communication, customer service, decisiveness, diversity, inclusion, flexibility, honesty, interpersonal skills, problem solving, resilience, safety, service motivation and team building were the emphases of their training and developmental experience.

“These are the hallmarks of strong leaders, and our CLDP graduates have now taken up the mantle and positioned themselves to lead,” said Gabriel.

The program participants also took the further steps to put these competencies into action by building a development plan and executing it. They engaged in activities and experiences such as serving on teams and committees, going on details and acting in leadership positions, as well as taking on special projects, pursuing further education and working in their communities.

At the same time, the CLDP participants continued to work in their current positions, juggling their primary roles while taking on something that pushed them out of their comfort zone.

“The CLDP inspires those wanting to expand their overall WAPA experience to be curious, learn more, do better,” said Vice President of Transmission System Asset Management for DSW Jack Murray. “It elevates program participants to engage in the many opportunities this rapidly evolving industry provides.”

The graduates were also honored by Acting Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Rodgers during the All-Leadership Meeting at the 2020 Leadership Summit in Denver, Colorado. She celebrated their achievement and took a few moments to reflect on their hard work.

The graduates themselves have been doing some reflection as well. 

“The amount of growth I have seen in my fellow CLDP classmates along with myself has been extraordinary,” said Electronic Integrated Systems Mechanic Charles Upgren. “When I first started, the idea of standing in front of a group of people and giving a presentation was terrifying, but now I am much more comfortable doing so after the training we received. My confidence level has increased exponentially.”

The graduates also learned more about how WAPA works as a whole. 

“I never realized how many pieces of WAPA it takes to keep this organization together,” said High Voltage Electrician Paula Sibbley. “The CLDP has taught me so much about communication and collaboration. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking to learn more about themselves as well as understanding how each department plays such a pivotal role at WAPA.”

After reaching such a major milestone, graduates often envision what their ideal next steps will be. They may realize their leadership journey has just begun. Fortunately, WAPA offers ample opportunities to step into leadership roles for those who better themselves through development programs and serve like their lights depend on it. 

Note: Barendsen is a public affairs specialist.

2020 Craft Leadership Development Program graduates

Derik AndersonForeman II High Voltage Electrician LeaderBrush, Colorado
Eddie Arellano FloresHigh Voltage ElectricianKeswick, California
Warren AustinHigh Voltage ElectricianMontrose, Colorado
Joel BrownHigh Voltage ElectricianBismarck, North Dakota
Steven DennisonElectronic Equipment CraftsmanSioux Falls, South Dakota
Kerry KilenHigh Voltage ElectricianMiles City, Montana
Jay RyanHigh Voltage ElectricianCasper, Wyoming
Paula SibbleyHigh Voltage ElectricianBoulder City, Nevada
Gregory SilvaElectronic Integrated Systems Mechanic (Meter & Relay)Hinton, Iowa
Jonathan TyrrellHigh Voltage ElectricianPhilip, South Dakota
Charles Upgren​Electronic Integrated Systems Mechanic (Meter & Relay)Bismarck, North Dakota​
Kevin Ven HuizenHigh Voltage ElectricianFargo, North Dakota​

Twelve participants graduated from the two-year Craft Leadership Development Program Jan. 30 at Hoover Dam. (Photo by Connie Castle)

Last modified on March 7th, 2024