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November 2018

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Bill Dever

International Representative for Business Development Bill Dever retired on Sept. 1, putting a wrap on a 47-year career jump-started by a father who understood the value of IBEW membership.

Dever worked with an auto mechanic during his senior year in high school, thinking that would be his career path. Instead, his father — also named Bill — signed him up to take the apprenticeship exam at Tampa, Fla., Local 915.

The elder Dever was an employee of Tampa Electric Company and a member of Tampa Local 108. He got to know IBEW construction members while they worked on projects at the company's plant and thought that would be a good option for a son who enjoyed working with his hands.

He was right. Bill Jr. did well on the exam and soon found himself on job sites throughout the Tampa area. The younger Dever had found a career.

"Oh yeah," he said. "I enjoyed it. My dad taught me good work habits."

Born in Vicksburg, Miss., Dever moved to Tampa when he was 2 after his father was assigned to nearby MacDill Air Force Base. The family stayed in the Tampa area after Bill Sr. was honorably discharged.

He taught his son that IBEW membership came with responsibilities, such as attending local union meetings.

"I'd go and he'd ask what happened and I really didn't know," Dever said. "He said, 'Go again. And again.' He told me to keep going until you figure it out. I did and I still enjoy going to union meetings."

Dever was elected to the executive board in 1981 and, one year later, was named an assistant business manager in charge of organizing. He served in that role until 2005, when he was appointed business manager and was subsequently twice elected to the position.

"It's the hardest job I've ever had, but there were so many rewards," Dever said. "The key was educating our members and making sure they understood why we might go in a certain direction. I guess that's why I never had much opposition."

Organizing wasn't particularly easy in Florida, which has been a right-to-work state for more than 70 years.

But Dever said Local 915 had success for two reasons. First, with the help of the International Office, it filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board against nonunion contractors for not following federal law. Such challenges often were successful and convinced potential members the value of IBEW representation.

And second, contractors knew little about the IBEW or the quality of its members, Devers said. He did everything possible to address that.

"They knew we had apprenticeship training, but they did not understand the level of it and the things we could do to help them be more competitive," he said.

That experience helped prepare Dever for his final role with the IBEW. In 2013, he joined the newly-formed Business Development Department, where he was responsible for developing stronger relationships with contractors and potential customers in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Business Development Director Ray Kasmark praised Dever for being the "consummate Southern gentleman" and for a tenaciousness few could match.

"Once Bill got into something, he didn't let go," Kasmark said. "He had inexhaustible energy to get a win for us. Once he got into something and pursued it, he would explore every possible route to get it together.'"

Kasmark said Dever's signature accomplishment came when he helped Albany, Ga., Local 1531 land work at a nearby Constellation biomass plant. Dever signed an agreement that the IBEW would supply the workers, even while knowing that a small local like 1531 would be stretched to meet that.

It met that challenge successfully. Local 1531, which had about 50 members, nearly doubled its membership by organizing nonunion local electricians, who responded to Facebook postings and word of mouth in the community, and filled all the available jobs.

"That was just an example of how he would go after stuff," Kasmark said. "He covered every base and would make sure every detail was attended to."

Dever and his wife, Carla, recently built a home on Lake McIntosh near Tampa — and Carla purchased him a new boat as a retirement present. It's an ideal location for an avid outdoorsman to pursue his passions of hunting and fishing. Bill Dever Sr. who led him to that IBEW career, died in 2015 at the age of 85.

"It's been a great run," his son said. "I've enjoyed it."


Bill Dever