The Electrical Worker online
October/November 2016

FOCUS: Leadership

Delegates Choose 'Strong, Resolute and Visionary' Leader as President

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International President Lonnie R. Stephenson and IBEW's leadership team were given an overwhelming stamp of approval by delegates during the International Convention in St. Louis.

Stephenson, Secretary-Treasurer Salvatore "Sam" Chilia and International Executive Council Chairman Christopher Erikson all were elected to five-year terms by acclamation during the convention's opening session on Sept. 19.

Stephenson, former Sixth District vice president, succeeded President Emeritus Edwin D. Hill in June 2015. New York Local 3 Business Manager Erikson was appointed IEC chairman in January.

"If we are to protect all that we have built in the last 125 years and grow in the future, to extend that protection to workers in our industry, we need a leader who is strong, resolute and visionary," Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell said in his nominating speech for Stephenson. "I know of nobody who is better suited for that job than Lonnie Stephenson."

Dalzell recounted Stephenson's early career as a wireman, praising him as someone who listened and learned as he came up through the ranks as a local union leader and later, as vice president.

"We know Lonnie is hard working, a man that would roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty, who understood that a union is more than just negotiating contracts and filing grievances," Dalzell said. "A union is a movement. And we knew him as a man who possessed great humility and led by example."

In his acceptance speech, Stephenson thanked his family and past mentors for their support and noted he attended his first convention — also in St. Louis — as a delegate 25 years earlier representing Rock Island, Ill., Local 145, his home local.

"If anyone had told me then that I would be back here 25 years later as president of our great international union, I would have told them they were crazy," he said. "It would have been the furthest thing from my mind. But now that I'm here, I couldn't be prouder or more humble than I am right now standing before you today."

Chilia, who has served in his office since May 2011, was elected to a five-year term at the 2011 convention in Vancouver.

"I didn't want a job where I was scratching off the days on the calendar until I retired," said Chilia, who began his apprenticeship with Cleveland Local 38 in 1967 and later served as Fourth District vice president and as a member of the IEC. "Like all of you, my commitment to this union is deeper than that. For us, and I mean all of us, it's a cause.

"We do what we do because we care about our co-workers. We do what we do because we care about our communities. We do what we do because we care about the future of our two great nations in this world. And we know just how damn important the IBEW is to all of us and how important it is to the middle class."

Chilia also applauded the election of Stephenson as president, calling him "a humble guy and the last person to talk about himself."

"So let me do it," he added. "I haven't been this excited about the future of this union in so many years. We stand on a powerful foundation. We enjoy a rich and inspiring history, and now, it's in our hands."

Erikson has been Local 3 business manager since 2006 and is the grandson of the legendary Harry Van Arsdale, who served as Local 3 business manager from 1933-68 and was the first president of the New York City Central Labor Council.

"There is no greater honor than to be elected by your peers to represent them," Erikson said. "Whether you are an elected officer of this great organization or a convention delegate, you have the same responsibility to act on their behalf with integrity and with the resolve that the decisions you make are in their best interests."


President Emeritus Edwin D. Hill swears in International President Stephenson and the IBEW leadership team on the convention stage.


"We know Lonnie as a man who possessed great humility and led
by example."

– Tom Dalzell, Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245 Business Manager