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Finley Ledbetter: 'Know Where to Get the Answer'

Aug. 3, 2017
Ledbetter will present 'Inside a Vacuum Circuit Breaker: Breaker Elements, Maintenance, Repair & Replace Considerations' at the 2017 Circuit Breaker Seminar

Finley Ledbetter stresses to young engineers that one of the most important things he has learned is to know where to get the answers. As chief scientist for Group CBS, Inc., Ledbetter has more than 40 years of power systems engineering experience. 

Ledbetter will present Inside a Vacuum Circuit Breaker: Breaker Elements, Maintenance, Repair & Replace Considerations at the 2017 Circuit Breaker Seminar. The seminar will be a 60-minute workshop on General Electric’s legacy PowerVac circuit breakers: the strength of the platform, excellent service life, and ways to extend the usable life beyond planned obsolescence. This workshop will cover maintenance intervals, lubrication adjustments, parts availability, testing, and upgrades required to keep this important, medium-voltage power circuit breaker in service for many years to come.

In addition to the remarkable similarities between different types of circuit breakers and the PowerVac, other medium-voltage vacuum circuit breakers manufactured in the United States between 1975 and 2000 will be discussed as well as major action items explained.  This will be a team-led, workshop with audio visual highlights.  Attendees will watch several key maintenance items performed first hand and learn the best practices based on Group CBS’s forty years of experience.

Ledbetter's philosophy on mentoring and his extensive experience in power systems engineering makes him a good fit for presenting this seminar. T&D World visited with Ledbetter about how he got his start in power systems and what he loves about his job now.

Q: How does your position and experiences as chief scientist help you in presenting this circuit breaker seminar?

I started as an intern engineer for Multi Amp, which is now Megger, when I was at the the University of Texas.  In that position I was assigned first to engineering and then the Multi Amp Institute, ran by longtime friend John Cadick.   John is one of the industry’s true, long time stars who gave me a great mentor early on and helped me become what I am today. I try to remember this and do the same with the young engineers and technicians we have at GCBS.

Q: When and why did you decide to go into power systems engineering?

It was by accident. I was in electrical engineering but had planned to go to work for Dallas Power and Light; however, a 3x5 index card on Dr. Cash’s, the head of the department, bulletin board led me to an interview with Multi Amp for an internship. From there it has been a 40-year career that I stumbled on one day because I needed a part-time job.

Q: Best thing about your job right now?

Getting to work in the development lab with all the young engineers that are very different from what I was and even more different than the senior engineers I worked with in my youth.

Also working with my four children whom all work in the business.

Q: What courses have you presented in the past, and what’s coming up?

I mostly work on developing new services, products, and solutions for what comes in from GCBS’s 400 people in the field. Every day it is another rodeo and that is what keeps me getting up every day and going back to work.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your past experience that you want to communicate to students or participants?

That you don’t need to know everything, just know where to get the answer and that if you get up and go to work every day, and do your best, get there early, and stay late, eventually you will prevail.  Take the easy way around an issue or run from it and you will not make it in this business.  I’m interested to see how the new millennial engineers make it in the real, heavy industrial world.  I’m a bit concerned; and I should be as two of my sons are in that mix.

Q: Why is circuit breaker maintenance is important to this industry?

 Life extension of medium-voltage circuit breakers is key to the health of the entire U.S. infrastructure. You remove this gear and the entire United States stops—everything! Too much of the key components have moved offshore we GCBS are working to move the parts that really hold the United States ransom back to U.S. soil.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have a cattle ranch and spend time with my kids and grandkids.  When the weather will not allow, I collect and restore classic Mustangs.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?    

My entire working life has been a single focus--38 kV and below distribution equipment.  I had great mentors and great partners.  Without them and my dedicated, understanding wife, I would have never made it!  This is a hard business when you first start out and then by the time you figure it out it is time to retire!

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