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June 2018

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Fielding Gurley

Fielding Gurley, who spent every workweek for the past 23 years on the road assisting IBEW locals in four southern states, retired as a Fifth District international representative April 1.

Gurley's late father, H. Wade Gurley, held the same title for 34 years. He rose from president of his local at Georgia Power to representative to being elected Fifth District international vice president in 1991.

"I was born into an IBEW family," his son said. "I was taught about the IBEW ever since I was old enough to remember."

Gurley studied journalism, advertising and political science at the University of Georgia for three years before "going to work for a living" as a nuclear electrician at Georgia Power's Plant Hatch in 1976.

It wasn't the path he'd expected to take. "I didn't really have any goals or aspirations to follow my dad's footsteps" either at Georgia Power or with the union, he said. "But these guys at work came to me and their attitude was that 'the chip doesn't fall very far from the log.'"

Gurley agreed to be the maintenance steward for Atlanta Local 84 and soon found himself helping a member with a grievance. "That kind of got me started," he said. "It felt good."

A few years later, he was able to transfer to Plant Scherer near his hometown of Macon, where he served as plant steward. In 1983, he joined the local's staff as an assistant business manager, handling arbitration cases and serving as second chair in contract talks with Georgia Power.

In 1992, he moved to the international staff as an organizer in the south, where the IBEW was planning a flurry of new campaigns. Gurley's string of successes began with 1,200 clerical workers at Florida Power and Light.

When his father retired as Fifth District V.P. in 1995, Gurley took the new vice president up on his challenge to move from organizing to representation. Assigned to Georgia, the Florida panhandle and parts of Alabama and Louisiana, Gurley enjoyed the variety of locals he served, from utilities and outside construction to paper mills, battery plants and electrical manufacturing.

He was on the road Monday through Friday and remembers then-International President J.J. Barry's directive: "He didn't want any 'T to T' reps," those who traveled only Tuesday through Thursday. "I felt that way, too," he said. "I really took that to heart, servicing the members, being there for them."

Gurley's skills, work ethic and rapport with locals were a model for Danny Johnson, who became a Fifth District international representative after serving as Tampa, Fla., Local 824's business manager.

International representatives "have to be respected, and there was nobody more respected in the field" than Gurley, Johnson said, recalling locals' not-so-subtle disappointment when the district shuffled assignments. He and other representatives who took over some of Gurley's territory soon realized, "You're not going to make that local as happy as they were with Fielding."

Still, Johnson gave it his all. "I always said I was going to be the best representative," he said. "I was there 10 years and I never became the best because he was the best."

Gurley lives in Macon with his wife, Audrey, his childhood sweetheart. Their three children and six grandchildren live nearby. He's looking forward to spending more time with them, as well as golfing, archery, fishing, hunting and his newest pursuit, raising Airedale terriers.

Working for the IBEW, he never forgot lessons he learned growing up. "Teachers in grammar school, Sunday school, they always kind of preached, 'make a difference in the world,'" he said. "And l felt like working with the IBEW I did make a difference in many people's lives. I know I saved a lot of people's jobs, and that was something I was always proud of."

The IBEW family thanks Gurley for his many years of dedicated service and wishes him a happy and healthy retirement.


Fielding Gurley

Mike Pace

Fifth District International Representative and second-generation IBEW member Mike Pace retired on April 1 after 47 years of service.

Dutch Pace, Mike's father, was a longtime member of Bogalusa, La., Local 1077 and served one term as business manager in the 1960s. The younger Pace grew up in nearby Pine, La., and planned to follow his father into the trades at some point. That timeline sped up when he left Southeastern Louisiana University after one semester. Pace was a walk-on to the school's football team, but reconsidered after his father recommended that staying without a scholarship wasn't worth it.

"I thought I was tough back then," Pace said. "But when you step up and start playing college football, it separates people out."

After that, he joined the National Guard, where he served for 10 years, and began his Local 1077 apprenticeship in 1972. Pace's first job was in Liberty, Miss., and he topped out in 1976 as a journeyman inside wireman — what he still calls his "badge of honor."

He got involved in his local union before his apprenticeship ended. Pace was elected recording secretary in 1975 and served in every position except treasurer before being elected business manager in 1992.

"The one thing that I think that is built into the DNA of every IBEW member is service," he said. "Being part of our Brotherhood means serving others."

Local 1077 has only about 200 members spread out over a largely rural area and was still keeping records by hand when Pace took over as business manager. He used his own computer to conduct business before a computer system was installed at Local 1077's offices.

Pace was elected business manager five more times, never drawing opposition in any election.

"I would like to think it was because I was doing such a marvelous job," he said with a laugh. "What it likely meant is that someone didn't want the aggravation.

"What I enjoyed most was helping people. The other stuff that came with the job, I tolerated that. But where I got my satisfaction, it was from helping people."

He accepted a position as an international representative in the Fifth District in 2007. Pace worked as a desk representative and serviced local unions as far north as the Tennessee River. His territory included all of Alabama and Georgia, northern Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle.

Pace said his experience in Local 1077 — which represented members working in inside and outside construction, utilities, manufacturing and government — proved useful at the district level.

"I was familiar with all these different contracts I had to negotiate," he said.

Former Local 1077 Business Manager Ben Nevers watched Pace grow up in Bogalusa. Nevers was an apprentice when Dutch Pace was business manager and started Nevers Electrical Contracting, where the younger Pace was an employee. He later negotiated contracts with him when Pace was business manager.

"Mike was a prime example of what the IBEW stands for," Nevers said. "He was a hard-working man. He was punctual and always on time. He was a true craftsman and a leader."

Nevers went on to serve in the Louisiana House and Senate and was Gov. John Bel Edwards' chief of staff before retiring earlier this year.

"To see someone like Mike Pace grow up and become a business manager and an international rep, I was very proud of his family," Nevers said. "I just believe we need more people like him in the IBEW."

Pace and his wife, Dakota, plan to stay in the Birmingham, Ala., area, near the Fifth District office. He also still owns a house and small farm near Bogalusa and returns to it often. He also plans to get more involved in music. Pace is an accomplished bluegrass and country music fiddle player and hopes to perform more regularly. He is a member of the American Federation of Musicians.

His only regret during his IBEW career, he said, is that his father did not live long enough to see him become an international representative. Dutch Pace passed away in 2005.

"That would have made him extremely proud," he said. "The IBEW meant everything to him."

The officers, staff and membership thank Brother Pace for his many years of service and wish him a happy retirement.


Mike Pace

Terry Roovers

Terry Roovers planned to be a lawyer. Instead, he found a home in the IBEW and retired on April 1 after 30 years of service to the Brotherhood, the last 14 as a Sixth District international representative.

Brother Roovers graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a political science degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1981. But feeling tired of school, he took a break from academics and went to work in the paper mills in his hometown of Appleton, Wis. He became a member of the United Paperworkers International Union, following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and several uncles.

"I decided I had enough school for a while," he said. "I just never went back."

After seven years, Roovers decided to try his hand at the trades and began his apprenticeship with Appleton Local 577 in 1988. Law school was put off for good.

"I didn't see any real career path for me in the paper industry and I had always aspired toward the trades, particularly something mechanical," Roovers said. "I walked into the union hall and hit it off with the assistant business manager (Roger Perkins, who remained a mentor throughout his career) at that time.

"He looked at my resume and thought I was pretty smart. I started working two days later."

Roovers served on several committees as an apprentice and, just one year after topping out as a journeyman inside wireman, he was hired as an organizer. He was elected Local 577's president in 1996 and business manager in 1999.

"I grew up in a union household and I was always one of those guys pushing for work when I was in the field, when I was foreman and general foreman," he said. "I always liked the idea of union service and what was nice in the electrical industry, those were full-time positions."

Roovers said the highlights of his time as business manager were attaining Local 577's record high in membership and its active role in the community, particularly with Habitat for Humanity.

In 2004, he joined the Sixth District staff, where he was the service representative for several locals and led training for newly-elected officers and business representatives.

"I was never tasked with a lot of things, and I always had the full support of the vice presidents," he said. "It was a joy working in an organization with that level of trust."

"He was always willing to assist when we did work together," said Personnel Department Director Jack Heyer, who worked with Roovers when Heyer was business manager of Green Bay, Wis., Local 158. "His input provided the direction necessary to overcome certain obstacles in the jurisdiction while he was our international representative."

Among those was an organizing effort at the Marinette Marine Shipyard in Wisconsin that provided work for about 160 members that otherwise might have gone to a non-signatory contractor. Heyer said it isn't surprising Roovers planned to be a lawyer. He talked more than most IBEW officials and used that to his advantage, he said.

"If you were at a conference with him or something like that, he would be the one with a question," Heyer said. "He was very inquisitive and he had a way of getting his point across when he had something to say."

In retirement, Roovers and his wife, Jan, plan to spend more time on 70 acres they own in Ogdensburg, Wis., and with their 1-year-old grandson. Stepson Elliot Spierings is a third-year apprentice at Milwaukee Local 494.

In the final years of his career, Roovers was on the front line fighting against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's attacks on working families.

"My parting words are pretty simple," he said. "We had these assaults go down on us, yet at the locals I served and IBEW locals throughout Wisconsin, our membership has grown. These people can't beat us because we offer value. If you do the right thing, others see value in it."

The officers, membership and staff thank Brother Roovers for his service and wish him a long, happy retirement.


Terry Roovers

Glenn 'Paul' Rushton

After more than four decades of service, Eleventh District International Representative Glenn "Paul" Rushton retired on April 1.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Brother Rushton was initiated into Kansas City Local 124 in August of 1973. The journeyman inside wireman served as an apprenticeship instructor, assistant business manager and executive council member prior to being appointed international representative in 2006, a position he held until his retirement.

"Paul's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet," said Local 124 business agent Phil Hulsey, who knew Rushton when he apprenticed with Hulsey's father.

It's a sentiment echoed by business representative Roger Beach, who apprenticed under Rushton and has known him for nearly 30 years.

"As an instructor, Paul always took the time to teach you, to make sure you understood," Beach said. "I've always considered him a good friend, mentor and teacher."

Beach said Rushton earned a reputation for being fair as a foreman, and not one to bend the rules. When other guys might cut out a little early, Rushton never did. When he was your foreman, you worked your full eight, he said, even if it was Christmas Eve.

"Paul was doing the Code [of Excellence] before there was a Code," Beach said. "He was someone you could always rely on. He represented the IBEW well."

Rushton served as a desk representative in the 11th District office for 11 years. During that time, in 2008, he was involved in negotiations for a merger between utility companies Kansas City Power and Light and Aquila, which involved five different locals. It was his job, he said, to make sure that every member knew where they fit in the new structure, addressing issues like seniority and pay.

"The merger went well, and that was in large part because of all the hard work from the locals," Rushton said.

When the international convention was held in St. Louis in 2016, in Rushton's district, his role included everything from event planning to lining up clergy for the invocation and a singer for the national anthem.

"It's unbelievable the amount of work that goes into planning a convention," Rushton said.

Now in retirement, Rushton says he's still getting used to days that are no longer filled with commitments and meetings.

"It's an adjustment," he said. "But I'm keeping busy."

He's also doing things he never had time for before, like attending spring training in Arizona for the Kansas City Royals.

"It was great," Rushton said. "It's something I've wanted to do for a long time."

Rushton is also making time for golf with friends and a trip to Florida with his wife.

"The IBEW has put me in a very good spot," Rushton said. "I feel very fortunate."

The IBEW officers, members and staff thank Brother Rushton for his many years of service and wish him a long and fulfilling retirement.


Glenn 'Paul' Rushton

David Tilmont

Following nearly 40 years of dedicated service to the IBEW, Ninth District International Representative David Tilmont retired effective March 1.

Tilmont's father had started as a lineman with Los Angeles Local 18 in the 1950s and then moved to inside work as a journeyman wireman with Ventura, Ca., Local 952 in the 1960s.

"I worked in summer helper programs while in high school," the younger Tilmont said, but the Oak View, Calif., native had never really considered an electrical career, because his father always encouraged him to get a degree.

"I thought I wanted to be a doctor or a dentist," Tilmont said, adding with a laugh that he "leaned toward being a dentist for the more regular hours."

After high school, he attended Ventura College and graduated with an associate of science degree, and then attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, and majored in biology.

"Then, I took a semester off and needed to make some money," Tilmont said, "so I applied for an apprenticeship — and I loved it."

He began his apprenticeship in 1978, was initiated into Local 952 in 1979, and worked for a variety of contractors, including Taft Electric, one of the larger contractors in Ventura County. He completed his inside journeyman wireman apprenticeship in 1982.

"It wasn't a goal; it's just how life happened," Tilmont said, noting that he ended up doing at least as well, financially, as his friends who earned graduate degrees.

The late 1970s and early 1980s were tough times, he said, with much of the construction industry in Southern California — and the local's market share — in decline. Tilmont was determined to do something about that.

Four years after Tilmont was elected to Local 952's executive board in 1987, he was hired as its first organizer.

"I came in and just started organizing," he said. "I would go out to workers and sign them up for apprenticeships, and I filed petitions for elections with the NLRB.

"I also spent a lot of time representing members and non-members whose rights to organize were violated by unfair contractors," he said.

Tilmont was on Local 952's executive board through 1995, serving on its negotiating and apprenticeship committees in addition to organizing. He also served on the local's labor-management cooperating committee, and for a time, he was a trustee for its pension fund and for its health and welfare fund.

In 1995, Tilmont was elected Local 952's business manager/financial secretary, and he served in that capacity for 7½ years until his appointment by then-International President Edwin Hill as international representative in December 2002. Until his retirement, Tilmont worked throughout the Ninth District as the service/organizing representative for Los Angeles Local 11; Las Vegas Local 357; Santa Barbara, Calif., Local 413; Bakersfield, Calif., Local 428; San Diego Local 569; and back home at Local 952.

"The thing I got the most satisfaction from was being able to help people achieve a better life, a better standard of living," he said.

His responsibilities and influence were not limited to direct work with IBEW members. Tilmont was appointed in 1998 as an alternate on National Code Making Panel 19, and he also served on Ventura County's Building and Safety Electrical Board of Appeals and on the county's Air Pollution Control District Advisory Committee.

After so many years of union leadership and activism, Tilmont said that his transition to retired life has felt "kind of weird."

"Retirement is feeling a little different from what I imagined," he said. "I don't think I've totally realized it yet."

Tilmont said that he plans to remain active in retirement — he enjoys skiing and is an avid mountain biker — and to travel as much as possible, with plans for upcoming trips with his wife, Leanne, to the Hawaiian island of Kauai and also to Ireland.

"I'll do a little travel, a little home remodeling," he said, "a combination of playing and also trying to do something productive every day."

The Ojai Valley resident and his family narrowly escaped serious injury and property loss from last December's Thomas wildfire, considered the largest fire in modern California history, which consumed nearly 282,000 acres across southern Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. After being evacuated from their home for two days, they returned to find a section of their yard burned, and a neighbor's home completely destroyed.

"The Thomas fire also decimated the biking trails," Tilmont said. "A lot of them slipped and crumbled." He has plans to help rebuild the trails.

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


David Tilmont