Retired GUC Lineworker Inducted into NCAMES Hall of Fame
Employees at Greenville Utilities hold safety as a top priority, and one of GUC’s own was inducted into the North Carolina Association of Municipal Electric Systems (NCAMES) Hall of Fame on May 18th, in part due to his safety leadership in the utility industry.
Mark Howery, retired GUC Electric Troubleshooter Crew Leader, served the North Carolina public power industry for 28 years as a lineman, mentor, and safety advocate after having spent 12 years in electric ground and line work in the private sector. Anyone who worked with Mr. Howery will tell you that he was, and still is, a dedicated lineman and mentor who is committed to his profession, safety, and to others in the trade.
Mr. Howery began his electric line career in 1982. After 12 years of working with private electric line construction contractors, he joined Greenville Utilities as a Lineworker in 1994. He worked his way up to Electric Troubleshooter Crew Leader, a title he held until retiring in the spring of 2022.
His career was more than a job; it was a passion for learning and training that went beyond his employer and into the state and national public power community. GUC’s Assistant Director of Electric Systems Ken Wade sums up Mark’s career best, “Three themes dominated Mark’s career at GUC: safety, attention to detail, and training. He always approached every job with safety as the top priority. During Mark’s 28 years with us, I never saw or heard another employee ever reference Mark taking a safety shortcut.”
Mr. Howery began competing in lineman rodeos in 1998, starting with the NCAMES rodeo. In 2000, he joined a team of North Carolina linemen to compete in the Municipal Division of the International Lineman’s Rodeo held in Kansas City, Missouri. This note of appreciation was discovered in the September 2000 edition of GUC’s employee newsletter Spotlight: “David E. Lucore, NCAMES Safety & Training Committee President, wrote to thank Mark Howery and his team members for the professionalism and enthusiasm they displayed at the recent International Lineman’s Rodeo.”
In 2001, NCAMES sent two teams (one from GUC and one from New Bern) to the International Lineman’s Rodeo in Bonner Springs, Kansas, where Mr. Howery’s team placed 9th overall and second in the Municipal Division. Participation in the international rodeos prompted members of NCAMES (including Mr. Howery) to work with the American Public Power Association (APPA) on creating a national rodeo dedicated solely for the public power industry. In 2001, the first APPA Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo took place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. GUC’s team, which included Mr. Howery, brought home several trophies.
Over a 15-year stretch of competing in lineman rodeos across the state and country, Mr. Howery helped GUC and NCAMES teams bring home 23 trophies, including some of his own individual wins. In 2014, he took a step back from competing and took over training the “young blood” as he puts it. For eight years, Mr. Howery coached countless linemen for the state and national rodeos, including linemen from neighboring communities who did not have a practice field or coach.
In addition to coaching rodeo teams, Mr. Howery volunteered as a rodeo competition judge and planning committee member for both the NCAMES and APPA rodeos. He also assisted GUC and NCAMES in encouraging the APPA to include full fall arrest systems as an added safety component in the Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo during the competitions where linemen are climbing wooden poles in excess of four feet. This was a safety practice that Mr. Howery encouraged GUC linemen to implement (even in competitions) years before it was mandated by APPA and OSHA.
Trainer and Mentor
“Mark believed in sharing his knowledge and experience to train up the next generation of lineworkers,” said Ken Wade. “Years ago, when I entered the after-hours supervisor standby rotation, I requested to be paired with Mark. I knew he would share his knowledge and teach me the safest way to get the job don
e. Mark has been a great mentor to many at GUC.”
After winning a few of the events at the 1999 NCAMES rodeo, Mr. Howery was asked to help teach the Climbing School for ElectriCities of North Carolina, and his passion for teaching and mentoring took off from there.
In addition to serving on the NCAMES Safety and Training Committee, Mr. Howery taught 40 different classes of linemen over the years through ElectriCities Line Schools. According to those he worked with locally and through line schools, Mr. Howery was passionate about passing on his knowledge to future
generations, especially when it pertained to electric safety.
“That's one thing I’ve always strived for - the young linemen to get the right information and not be led down the wrong path,” said Mr. Howery. “Teaching the young blood the right way to do things is what I take pride in. With every trouble call I went on for GUC, I made sure with 110% certainty I knew what the problem was before I left the customer, and it was the same way with line schools. I knew with certainty that those guys knew the right way to do things before they graduated from my class.”
Public Power Community Spirit
At the heart of public power is community - local, regional, and national – and Mr. Howery is no stranger to the community spirit that is public power. Within GUC’s own community, Mr. Howery was always quick to help with whatever was needed, from Christmas parades and raising money for families in need (especially when it came to steaming oysters for a good cause), to designing the “It’s Electric!” Lineworker display at Greenville’s A Time for Science Museum and serving on GUC’s Safety Committee and Incident Review Committee.
Beyond GUC’s own community, Mr. Howery served on seven mutual aid trips with GUC to communities across the country in need of power restoration assistance following natural disasters. He also served on a handful of mutual aid trips in his private-sector line career prior to joining GUC. His final mutual aid trip lasted for 19 days in Houma, Louisiana, a community devastated by Hurricane Ida in 2021. Mr. Howery also assists with the Fallen Lineman Foundation.
He now enjoys retirement with his wife, Linda. They live in Ayden, NC, near their granddaughter and great-grandson, who they have currently devoted most of their spare time to.
Even in retirement, Mr. Howery continues to mentor the “young blood” whenever they come calling for advice - whether it’s for an upcoming rodeo competition or an electric job with unusual circumstances. “They still occasionally call me for advice, and I will always answer,” he said.
Mark Howery is a dedicated professional and great mentor who played a vital role in setting the high safety standards of electric linemen in the North Carolina and national public sector. As Ken Wade also puts it best, “his legacy is the knowledge he transferred to others.”
GUC retiree Mark Howery accepting the NCAMES Hall of Fame recognition with his great-grandson.