Claremore Daily Progress

July 11, 2013

Ward retires after 44 years working with electricity

Mark Friedel
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

After 44 years of working in electricity, 19 with the City of Claremore, Supervisor of Operations Jim Ward is set to retire. 
Ward has made contributions to the utilities and the community. 
He received the 2008 meritorious service award by Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma, as well as numerous other awards with the electric department. 
In June, Claremore Electric employees received their sixth Municipal Electrical Systems of Oklahoma Award in 10 years. 
The award is given for workers’ outstanding achievement in electric operations and safety.
At one time, Ward managed as the Claremore Electric Department’s director of utilities.
“It was a job I was asked to take. At first I didn’t want it, but then went back a few days later and accepted,” said Ward. 
He said he remained director for about three years until he was asked to step down. 
A few years later,  he again had the opportunity to become director of utilities, but wanted to stay where he was as supervisor.
“I found myself more suited in working with others, rather than working in management. I was fine with getting jobs together and lining out crews, finding work for them to do.”
Ward began his city electric career as an apprentice in January 1969 in Stillwater. He worked there for four years before moving to Cleveland.
“Guys today have to go through four years of schooling to become a journeyman lineman. When I started there was no schooling,” he said. “It wasn’t until I got to Indian Electric in Cleveland that I realized I needed to learn more. I learned most of what I needed to know by asking questions one-on-one with my supervisor.”
After becoming a 4th-year apprentice at Indian Electric, Ward was told he would receive a raise by his supervisor.
“I did receive a raise, but it wasn’t as much as what the other journeyman were making with the same amount of training,” he said. 
Ward never did ask for his additional raise, instead other workers told the supervisor that the company should be paying him more.
“If there’s one thing about me that’s different from people I worked with, it’s that I never complained to management about how much I was making,” he said.
Ward worked for Indian Electric for 18 years, then moved to Skiatook for two years, before settling in Claremore.
“For a fella that had a fear of heights, I’ve come a long way. I never really did overcome that fear, even after climbing 90-foot poles,” said Ward. 
“There’s an old saying in line work, ‘The money’s at the top of the pole.’ If a fella’s going to be a lineman, he’s going to need to climb and work a pole.”
He said back when he started, lineman didn’t have a bunch of bucket trucks, they just worked off the pole.
“With all of the bucket trucks now, climbing a pole is somewhat rare, but safety is still a priority. Our employees complete safety reviews before each job,” he said.
Ward said he’ll miss working in electric; however he won’t miss customer complaints due to flickering and power outages.
“Claremore hasn’t been as bad with complaints as other cities I’ve worked in. We have a good system here, it’s just that people recognize the flickering more because more electronics are being used,” he said.
As for plans after retirement, Ward will take two weeks vacation and then see what comes after that. His wife and him plan to visit family in North Carolina and Stillwater, as well as spend more time with grandchildren.
With two grandchildren in Claremore, Ward said his wife and him have no plans to move anytime soon.