DamonLesterVolunteer

Spotlight on the Line Trade: Damon Lester of the Indian Valley Cooperative

Damon Lester worked alongside volunteer linemen from Missouri and Oklahoma cooperatives to help electrify two villages in Bolivia.

• Born in Roswell, New Mexico.
• Married to his wife, Kelsey, and has a daughter named Chloe.
• Enjoys spending time with his family and doing outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and enjoying nature.
• Can’t live without iPads, battery-powered hydraulic tools and fall-arrest devices.

Early Years
As a college student, I had a part-time job at KAMO Power as a warehouse/groundsman assistant. I then worked as a welder in an assembly line shop. After a few years in that position, a friend of mine talked me into putting in an application at a cooperative.

Day in the Life
As a lead line foreman for Indian Electric Cooperative, I am currently on a construction and maintenance bucket. A typical day doesn’t exist for me as a foreman. One day I could be in the bucket with my hooks on the pole, and the next day I could be in the office assisting other crews with scheduling daily projects. My crew upgraded some of our city grids with Hendrix cable and ductile iron poles to replace some of the oldest H-structures on our system. Meanwhile, our crews continue with routine maintenance activities to continue to improve our system reliability.

Working for a Co-op
When you work for a cooperative, you live and work closely in your communities with members, employees, family, and friends. This can bring about some unique challenges, but it can also be rewarding as well.

Memorable Storm
One of my most memorable storm moments happened at Cotton Electric Cooperative in Waters, Oklahoma. After a day of traveling on icy roads to get to the co-op, we were assigned a very small task of single-phase repair that included a few pole replacements, a lot of tree work and a few conductor splices. As we were driving to the co-op, we saw tremendous damage along the main feeders all around us. At that point in time, we began wondering why we were wasting time on 10 spans of single-phase line serving an old, abandoned-looking farmhouse. The answer came as soon as we completed the repairs and energized the line an hour after dark. The old farmhouse erupted with Christmas lights and cheers from the happy children inside. We immediately realized how important every restoration
is, even if it’s one house and not 400.

Volunteering Overseas
Back in August, I traveled with seven other co-op volunteers from Oklahoma to the Amazonian area of Bolivia as part of a volunteer electrification project called Energy Trails, which is coordinated by the NRECA International Foundation. We worked for 17 days with Missouri co-op linemen and local linemen from the local co-op, Cooperativa Electrica Riberalta, to string 17 km of power lines over 220 poles. We brought electric service for the first time to two different villages in the outskirts of Riberalta, Bolivia. Thanks to the project, which was a joint partnership between the Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives and the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, we were able to provide power to 361 families.

Going to Bolivia on the Energy Trails Team has been the biggest highlight of my career so far. It was a life-altering experience to be able to play a role in truly improving the quality of life for the villagers. We gave them something that would have taken countless years for them to attain. I think the true excitement comes with the future and the potential for growth. The village can now expand because it has the backbone to provide a better quality of life and a safer environment for its people. Electrifying the villages has brought a whole new level of awareness to what we do and how our work impacts human life.

Future Plans
If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely stay in the power industry. The many challenges we face on a daily basis are sometimes the driving factors that keep us motivated. My goal going forward is to return home every day and help to ensure the same for my coworkers. Hopefully, I can continue to be an asset for the cooperative until I am able to retire. 

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