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June 2015

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Jerry Westerholm

IBEW Construction and Maintenance Department Director Jerry Westerholm has been promoted to Special Assistant to the International President for construction, maintenance and business development, effective April 1.

A native of Hutchinson, Minn., Westerholm entered Minneapolis Local 292's apprenticeship program in 1980 and served on the COPE committee and executive board.

"I had great jobsite mentors," says Westerholm, who joined Local 292's efforts to build political influence in surrounding towns and counties.

Appointed business representative in 1989, Westerholm assisted grassroots efforts in support of Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone and helped elect county commissioners and school board members who supported union labor.

Westerholm was appointed Local 292 business manager in 1997 and was elected to the position in 1998. He helped negotiate a project labor agreement covering all work performed for the Minneapolis school district, a pact that is still in effect.

In 2000, Brother Westerholm was assigned to help administer national agreements and process disputes over craft jurisdiction as an international representative in the Construction and Maintenance Department in Washington, D.C.

He became director of the department seven years later after his predecessor, Mark Ayers, became president of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

"We need to keep growing our membership to make up for the large numbers of baby boomers who are getting ready to retire," Westerholm says.

Eight thousand members in the branch will qualify for pension this year. By 2024, the number of eligible retirees will spike to 77,000.

"I'm looking forward to helping to administer an added focus on business development in my new position," says Westerholm, who has attended the University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois as well as dozens of seminars focusing on arbitration, construction law, research and safety.

Westerholm emphasized the need to continue practicing the Code of Excellence while reaching out to customers well in advance of projects and cooperating with them to keep rates competitive. "That means fully utilizing construction wiremen and construction electricians where practicable. It's all about building productive relationships with our signatory contractors that work for both of us."

On behalf of the entire membership and staff, the IBEW wishes Brother Westerholm great success in his new position.


Jerry Westerholm

Denise Johnson

International Representative Denise Johnson was appointed director of the newly-established Agreement Approval Department, effective April 1.

A member of Houston Local 716, Sister Johnson was initiated into the IBEW in 1995, completing her inside journeyman wireman apprenticeship in 1999.

Johnson became the first woman to hold elected office in the local, serving as chairman of the examining board along with membership on the negotiating committee, several other committees and in the Houston chapter of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus. She participated in Watt Women, founded by members of Local 716.

In 2004, Johnson, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., from a family of electricians, became the first woman electrical inspector for the City of Houston.

Appointed international representative in the Construction and Maintenance Department in 2006, Johnson was assigned to work on contract compliance. A year later, Johnson was assigned to supervise the work of agreement approval analysts at the International Office.

Agreement approval analysts review from 100 to 200 agreements per month. They ensure that contracts are compliant with the IBEW's established procedures and requirements and federal law.

Challenges by employers to collective bargaining precedents have intensified in several IBEW branches, says Johnson. To face those challenges, business managers and international representatives need more information. During her tenure, new databases have been put in place to help leaders prepare for negotiations by collecting data about wage increases and other subjects.

"Armed with an even stronger focus, our new department will work even harder to help our local unions achieve success in collective bargaining," Johnson says.

Johnson is a former member of the Democratic National Committee and a member of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

She is also an accomplished equestrian who enjoys hunting, diving and snow skiing.

On behalf of the entire membership, the officers wish Sister Johnson great success in her new position.


Denise Johnson

Ray Kasmark

IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill has appointed Ray Kasmark director of the new Business Development Department, effective May 1. Once part of the Construction and Maintenance Department, it was created to develop relationships with construction project owners in the early stages of development to find areas of possible cooperation that increase the chances of signatory contractors winning new work.

"There is always someone out there who says no to every construction project," Kasmark said. "We are able here to help provide the people who will say yes, and will work to back that yes up."

Kasmark came on as Gary and Hammond, Ind., Local 697's staff organizer in 1996 and became business manager in 2004. He said Local 697 has a culture that emphasizes selling the benefits of working with the IBEW directly to project owners. It is an attitude Kasmark traced back to Harold Hagberg, business manager from 1950-1978, who served as president of the Gary Chamber of Commerce.

"Our culture was to organize the work, because a job is the best advertisement for the union there is," Kasmark said. "When they ask 'Have you got a job for me?' saying 'I got a job for you Monday' will get anyone's attention."

Kasmark was appointed business development international representative by President Hill in 2013 where he has been responsible for the Sixth District: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Kasmark has worked closely with the owners of many projects including Energy Transfer Partners, which is building a pipeline from the Utica shale in Ohio into Michigan, and Clean Lines, which is building several multibillion dollar transmission line projects across the American heartland.

"In exchange for help in the regulatory process and public meetings, we have commitments from them on two of the projects and there are a few others we are working on," Kasmark said.

Brother Kasmark is a third generation member of Local 697. His maternal grandfather, Clay Maupin, was initiated into Glasgow, Ky., Local 463 in 1920 and worked as a railroad and utility lineman and joined Local 697 in February 1951, retiring a year after receiving his 50-year pin. His father, Raymond Kasmark Sr., was also a member of Local 697. He has two sons also in Local 697: Chauncey Kasmark, an inside journeyman wireman, and Taylor Kimes, who is an inside apprentice wireman.

The officers and members wish Brother Kasmark great success in his new position.


Ray Kasmark

Jim Ross

International Representative Jim Ross was appointed director of the IBEW Construction and Maintenance Department, effective April 1. Ross replaces Jerry Westerholm, now Assistant to the International President for construction, maintenance and business development.

Ross was assigned to the Construction and Maintenance Department in 2007, and he served as director of the Political and Legislative Affairs Department from 2013-2014.

"Being back in construction feels like home," said Ross, who has done electrical work since he was a junior in high school. He worked nonunion until he was accepted into an IBEW apprenticeship with Parkersburg, W.Va., Local 968 in 1976. "I went to college for a year, but I just felt more comfortable working with my hands. At the end of the day, you see what you've accomplished. It's one of the most fulfilling jobs — to start a project, finish it and be able to turn the lights on."

Ross brings eight years of experience at the International Office to his new job, which came on the eve of the 2015 Construction and Maintenance Department conference. Ross said the event's theme, "Don't Settle for Survival," couldn't be more appropriate or timely.

"In some cases, locals are at full employment, and you can get in a comfort zone because everyone is working," Ross said. "But we should never settle for just that. There are a lot of other work opportunities out there that we need to go after."

From the recent recession to the tentative comeback the construction sector is experiencing, Ross said that the IBEW has been in the forefront of developing new programs to get members back to work. Initiatives such as the construction electrician and construction wireman classifications and the recent business development initiative are reaping rewards.

"Speaking in terms of the Fourth District, where I am from and most familiar, I can tell you that from talking with the business managers, CE/CW is definitely working," Ross said. "It's helping gain man-hours, and we're growing membership and market share. It's proven to work and to capture work we were not doing."

Ross praised International President Edwin D. Hill for spearheading the program. "I don't think anyone's going to stop until we get back to where we should be, like in the '60s when we had 75-80 percent market share. The only way to get that is to use all the tools to get it back."

One way to do that, Ross said, is to continue efforts to work with lawmakers across the current party divide. "We have help from a lot of Democrats, and we are trying to get more Republicans to work with us on issues like project labor agreements and Davis-Bacon." During the Building and Construction Trades 2015 Legislative Conference in April, BCTD President Sean McGarvey said that about 50 Republicans in the House of Representatives are engaging in productive dialogue with union leaders on federal prevailing wage protections, among other pro-worker issues.

"We're certainly going to have to build these coalitions to get something done," Ross said.

In his free time, Ross enjoys golf and woodworking. He expressed gratitude to his wife, Valerie, and their three sons for continued support.

On behalf of the entire staff and membership, the officers wish Brother Ross great success in his new position.


Jim Ross

Eddie Dedmon

After a 44-year career in the IBEW, International Representative Eddie Dedmon retired March 1.

Brother Dedmon, born and raised in Jacksonville, Fla., said labor activism was in his blood.

"My dad was the business manager for the brickmasons," he said. "He showed me that with the union, you could always make a living. He pointed me to it."

He was initiated into Jacksonville Local 177 in 1971. Prior to joining the IBEW, Dedmon served in the U.S. Navy, stationed in San Diego.

Trained as an inside wireman, Brother Dedmon held a variety of positions in Local 177. He served as president and assistant business manager in the 1990s before serving as business manager-financial secretary from 1998 to 2005.

Dedmon served on numerous committees including: pension, health care, negotiating, labor management, apprenticeship and organizing. He studied labor relations at the George Meany Center, later known as the National Labor College.

Membership at Local 177 grew significantly during Dedmon's tenure as business manager, from roughly 490 members in 1990 to more than 1,800 in 2005.

In 2005, International President Edwin Hill appointed him to serve as Fifth District international organizing coordinator.

"Organizing was my passion and No. 1 objective," he said. "In the early days, the union structures were not set up as they are today and it was an uphill battle in Florida. There was a lot of work involved to organize effectively. I created membership orientations and gave video presentations to get it done."

During his career, the homebuilders in Florida were notoriously nonunion. "I got to be so well known they had a cheat sheet prepared: 'How to deal with this man.'"

Brother Dedmon also served as president of the North Florida Building Trades Council and president of the North Florida Labor Council.

On behalf of the entire membership and staff of the IBEW, the officers wish Brother Dedmon a long and healthy retirement.


Eddie Dedmon

William J. Moore

We regret to report that retired First District International Representative William J. Moore died on April 6. He was 77.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Brother Moore initiated into Local 911 in 1957. The local was later merged with Local 636, and Moore continued his membership there. A lineman by trade working for the Windsor Public Utilities Commission, Moore served on the executive board and as financial secretary before becoming business manager in 1969.

Brother Moore was appointed to the International staff in 1974 and mainly serviced locals in the utility branch and the public sector. Among numerous career highlights, the Canadian government invited him to lend his expertise to many panels addressing lineman certification, safety, utility training and more.

"Bill will be remembered for being a lineman's lineman," said retired First District International Vice President Ken Woods. "That was his life, next to his family. He was dedicated — IBEW from head to toe. And he was especially gung-ho for linemen and their safety. He thought there was no trade like it."

A member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Moore served on various labor/management committees throughout his career. He retired in 1998.

In retirement, Moore enjoyed golf, bowling and hockey, and was a coach for young skaters learning skills in the rink.

On behalf of the entire IBEW membership and staff, the officers send our condolences to Brother Moore's family.


William J. Moore