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April 2021

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Randy Middleton

Manufacturing Director Randy Middleton, who turned down a management position early in his career and made the IBEW his professional home, retired April 1 after 40 years in the brotherhood.

Brother Middleton was born in Flint, Mich., where his father, Townsend, was a member of the United Auto Workers. The elder Middleton later moved into management for AC Spark Plug and, during his son's high school years, moved the family to the Milwaukee area after he was transferred to the company's facility there.

The younger Middleton became a member of Milwaukee Local 663 in 1981, when he was accepted into AC Spark Plug's company-sponsored apprenticeship. Not long after becoming a journeyman wireman in 1985, he took a supervisor's test and did well enough that the company offered him a management position — a rare plum for someone so young.

Instead of accepting it, as his father expected, he turned it down.

"He was kind of insulted," Middleton said with a laugh. "But when you're an apprentice, you spend a lot of time following around a journeyman and he plans all the work. You're just a grunt. I told my dad that I wanted to be a journeyman and plan the work. I wanted to apply what I had learned the last four years."

He quickly became an activist. Middleton served as a shop steward and was elected Local 663's financial secretary in 1993. Three years later, he was elected business manager.

"I always had a knack for solving problems," Middleton said. "My dad was not anti-union but growing up in a management household, I heard stories from that point of view and understood it. When I got in the shop, I knew where both sides were coming from and I think that's always worked in my favor."

American manufacturing has been hit hard by outsourcing for decades and Middleton had to carefully manage Local 663's funds. But he relished the job, in large part because of how much he enjoyed negotiating contracts. That skill was one reason he was named an international representative and moved to Washington in 2007. He was promoted to manufacturing director in 2009 following the retirement of Bob Roberts.

"When I get criticism at the bargaining table from the other side, I don't rant and rave," he said. "I don't curse and scream and I don't make a scene. I've learned in 36 years that if you rant and rave, they stop listening to you."

Middleton said his proudest accomplishment was the development of a Code of Excellence specific to the manufacturing branch. The Code was first developed for construction but Middleton, with the support of then-International President Edwin D. Hill, worked with a 34-member committee that included delegates from all 11 districts along with a handful of international representatives to develop a code that met the needs of manufacturing members and companies the IBEW has contracts with.

That eventually led to the 2014 launch of, a site that lists all products manufactured by members and their employers and helps consumers make more informed decisions on their purchases.

"Randy encouraged everyone to bring their own ideas and build our own program," said International Representative Brian Lamm, who will succeed Middleton as director and was a member of the committee that developed the manufacturing code. "It was a success because of that."

Lamm said Middleton deserves credit for building alliances with European-based unions, particularly those representing workers at Siemens and Electrolux — companies the IBEW does business with in North America.

"That is absolutely huge going forward," Lamm said. "I know I have some awfully big shoes to fill."

In retirement, Middleton will return to the log-cabin home he built just outside Milwaukee, adding, "I'll probably die there." He and his wife of more than 40 years, Therese, have four grown children and 11 grandchildren with another on the way. They plan to spend more time with them while also traveling. Middleton's oldest son, Jason, is a member of Milwaukee Local 2150 after serving four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Army.

Another high point for Middleton came when he carved a ceremonial gavel from African Mahogany for International President Lonnie R. Stephenson and presented it to him at the 2016 International Convention in St. Louis. The two met while serving as business managers in the Sixth District in the mid-1990s and have been friends since.

"The IBEW is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me and my family," he said. "Career-wise, I never thought I would end up where I am. I truly believe we're the best organization out there. We're well-respected not just in the United States but globally."

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


Randy Middleton

Brian A. Lamm

International President Lonnie R. Stephenson has appointed Brian Lamm as director of the IBEW's Manufacturing Department, effective April 1. Lamm, a member of Mankato, Minn., Local 1999, is replacing Randy Middleton, who retired.

Lamm was initiated into the IBEW in 2004 while working at Kato Engineering, a manufacturer of electrical generators.

"I had worked at Walmart through high school," the Mankato native said. "My uncle had been working at Kato. He told me they were doing some hiring and he suggested I apply.

"I wasn't that involved at first," he said of his IBEW membership. "But then I started attending the monthly meetings."

In 2011, Lamm successfully ran for a spot on Local 1999's Executive Board, although at the time, union activism as a career was only one of his pursuits. "I also had decided to go back to school," he said, and he began taking classes at Minnesota's South Central College.

"One of my electives that first year was in the [emergency medical technician] program," Lamm said, and that sparked some interest in him. "So now, I had a choice to make."

Something that helped Lamm select the union path came in 2012, when he attended the IBEW's annual Broadcasting, Manufacturing and Telecommunications Conference, held that year in San Diego. "When [then-International] President [Edwin] Hill addressed the manufacturing session, it lit a fire in me," he said.

Lamm also met Middleton at that conference.

"Brian impressed me from the first meeting. He asked me how to get more people to come to union meetings," Middleton recalled with a laugh. "I said, 'If you could bottle that and sell it, you'd be rich.'"

And while Lamm eventually received an associate degree in intensive care paramedicine, his newfound professional friendship with Middleton and Hill's inspiration convinced him to get more active with his union.

"What I like about Brian is his great attitude. He has an ability to assess a situation," said Middleton, who later asked Lamm to be a part of the IBEW's Code of Excellence Committee. "He doesn't react emotionally, but with common sense. He networks. People seem to gravitate toward him and talk to him."

In 2014, Lamm ran successfully for Local 1999 business manager. "It was a part-time office," he noted. "I worked at the shop all day and then on union business after work on nights and weekends."

That same year, Lamm started a solidarity committee with an eye toward getting the one-shop local's 200-plus members more involved in their community.

"He's big into solidarity, and not just at work. He eats and sleeps IBEW," said Local 1999 Business Manager Paul Woelfel, who has been friends with Lamm since they were both in middle school. "Brian's a character, but I know I can reach out to him whenever I need to. That's just the way he is."

Among the solidarity committee's accomplishments, Woelfel said, was the "adoption" of a section of a southern Minnesota highway, where some Local 1999 members picked up litter several times a year.

"He tried a lot of ways to get us to come together," Woelfel said, such as restarting a long-dormant tradition of holding annual picnics for members and their families.

Lamm served as business manager until 2017, when Stephenson appointed him to be an international representative in the Manufacturing Department.

"It was tough at first," Lamm said. "I had never lived anywhere other than Mankato." To stay active and help make friends in his new city, he joined a D.C. kickball league. "It took a little while to make the transition, but this is home now," he said.

Before most large gatherings were stopped early in the COVID-19 pandemic, he regularly attended Washington Capitals games a few blocks from the IBEW's International Office. "Being from Minnesota, you've also got to be a hockey fan," he said.

Lamm also serves as a member of the IBEW's Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

As director of the Manufacturing Department, Lamm plans to keep a steady course. "I want to carry on what Randy's been doing," he said. That includes continuing to build stronger connections with other unions in the manufacturing trades, a move that has helped break down barriers to organizing at manufacturers with both U.S. and European operations.

"I expect he'll be here at the I.O. for awhile," Middleton said.

Please join the officers and staff of the IBEW in wishing Brother Lamm great success in his new role.


Brian A. Lamm

Dan Gardner

International Representative Dan Gardner, a third-generation wireman who rose to prominence in Oregon politics before joining the IBEW staff in Washington, D.C., retired April 1.

Gardner had moved from the state Legislature to serving as Oregon's elected labor commissioner when he was hired away by the union's political department in 2008, a journey he began as a summer helper at Peoria, Ill., Local 34.

Topping out as a journeyman wireman in 1984, he carried on a family tradition that started with his grandfather and extends to his father, uncle, cousins, nephews and his own son.

"I thought about being a lawyer, but I hated school," Gardner said with a laugh. "From the time I was about 15 being a journeyman was all I wanted to do."

Gardner headed west in 1986, following his older brother to Portland, Ore., and Local 48. He spent the better part of a decade as a foreman and general foreman on Nike's ever-expanding global campus.

He dove into Local 48's political action committee early on and served as chair before moving into leadership as recording secretary and vice president.

He was initiated into state politics when he fought an attempted repeal of Oregon's prevailing wage law. Teaming with Portland Local 125 activist Liz Shuler — now secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO — Gardner helped lead a grassroots campaign to defeat the referendum. "We won overwhelmingly," he said.

Building on that victory and other pro-worker activism, Gardner ran as a Democrat for the Oregon House in 1996, winning the seat that now-Gov. Kate Brown had vacated to run for the state Senate.

Twice reelected, he served as minority leader during his third term and led his caucus on a historic five-day walkout that derailed a lopsided GOP redistricting plan. It was the first major walkout by lawmakers at any U.S. statehouse since 1924.

When he hit now-defunct term limits in 2002, Gardner ran to head Oregon's nonpartisan Bureau of Labor and Industries. He won 59% of the vote in a four-way race and was reelected in 2006.

His roles as a legislator and commissioner meant he both championed and enforced laws protecting workers' rights, safety and livelihoods. He helped improve the prevailing wage law and the state's minimum wage, a fight he won by way of a ballot measure that raised the hourly rate and tied it to the Consumer Price Index.

"I went from being one of three chief petitioners who got it passed to being the guy in charge of adjusting it every year," Gardner said.

He loved nearly everything about being a public servant save for the paycheck, lamenting lightheartedly that, "I could have made a whole lot more as an electrician."

Midway through his second term at the labor bureau, the IBEW made him an offer he couldn't refuse: a chance to return to his trade union roots and bring his political skills to the nation's capital.

Gardner was made for the job, said Utility Director Donnie Colston, who previously worked with him in the political department.

"Dan is the best communicator," he said. "He can talk for hours about politics anywhere in the country in a way that makes you want to listen. Like he's telling a story. He has vast knowledge, and he remembers everything."

In 2015, he and Gardner spent six weeks door knocking at IBEW homes in Louisiana, leading up to a runoff election for the U.S. Senate seat then held by Democrat Mary Landrieu. Colston marveled at his friend's success at the doors.

"For him it wasn't just, 'please take the time to vote,' but, 'this is why you should vote," he said. "He's very relatable. He makes friends wherever he goes."

Colston saw the same dynamic when Gardner accompanied him to Capitol Hill. "When I moved to Utility, he'd go with me to talk about legislation and regulatory matters. He'd built relationships with so many members of Congress. All of them know Dan."

Gardner spent long days on the Hill making the IBEW's case for everything from energy policy to job safety to workers' rights legislation.

In the battle for the Affordable Care Act, he persuaded Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley to sponsor an amendment to apply the employer mandate to contractors with at least five workers and $250,000 in annual payroll.

"It was a really big deal for the building trades," Gardner said, even though enraged nonunion contractors ultimately prevailed. But years of effort on another Obamacare front finally paid off when Congress repealed excise taxes on gold-standard health plans, like those negotiated by unions.

Choosing to take a breather from politics during the Trump era, Gardner spent his later years at headquarters in the Safety and Health Department.

He worked on national safety standards for construction sites, line-clearance tree trimmers and other IBEW jobs and was consumed much of the past year by the pandemic. He tracked COVID-19 developments and met frequently via Zoom and conference calls with counterparts at the AFL-CIO and building trades associations to share research and strategize.

Gardner has returned to Portland to enjoy his retirement near his grown daughter, his journeyman son, and a wealth of old friends who comprise a who's who of Oregon politics. He doubts he'll run for elective office again but is eyeing opportunities to be a voice for workers on state boards and commissions.

The IBEW thanks Brother Gardner for his years of service and wishes him well in his future pro-worker pursuits.


Dan Gardner