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June 2023

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David Mullen

Safety Director David Mullen retired June 2, ending a 38-year IBEW career that began in a Midwest coal plant and ended at the International Office in Washington, D.C.

Born and raised in Peoria, Ill., Brother Mullen originally followed in the footsteps of his father, Fred, who worked for Caterpillar for 38 years and was a member of the United Auto Workers. His son worked for Caterpillar and was a UAW member himself for 6½ years.

His time there ended with a layoff, but it turned into a blessing. Mullen landed a job at the Powerton coal-fired plant in 1984 after its owner was forced to hire additional staff following two explosions. He joined Downers Grove, Ill., Local 15 in the process.

"I felt like my job was on the line almost from the day I got hired," Mullen said. "Even back then, the viability of coal plants was in question. It was like, 'Hey, if you guys want to keep your job, you've got to transfer out."

He eventually did just that. Mullen moved to Exelon's Quad Cities Nuclear Generating Station in 1994 to work as a plant operator.

That's where his interest in safety took off. His work also was noticed at Local 15, where Business Agent Dean Apple asked him to serve as a shop steward.

"That's a moment I think about," Mullen said. "He chose me, and it kind of put me on this path. If he had chosen someone else, I'd probably still be back in Illinois."

Mullen served in that role for five years, during which time he also co-chaired the plant's safety committee. Apple, who was now business manager, hired Mullen on staff as a business representative for the local's nuclear division in 2007 — a big assignment at Local 15, which has five nuclear power plants in its jurisdiction, more than any other IBEW local.

Two years later, he moved to Washington as an international representative in the Utility Department, where most of his duties involved working with government officials to improve grid reliability and to ensure that the transition to clean energy is done in a way that lessens the impact on IBEW members and other workers in the coal industry.

In 2014, he was named safety director by then-International President Edwin D. Hill. Mullen sometimes is teased by friends for his meticulous, orderly personality, but he takes that as a compliment. It has helped in his role leading the Safety Department and may be part of why he was chosen for the position, he said.

"My work ethic and attention to detail is important to me," he said. "I was always that way, but once I became a nuclear operator, it allowed me to grow exponentially."

Among Mullen's proudest accomplishments are forming an emergency response team among the International Office staff, with all members trained in CPR and first aid, and making the Safety Caucus and its resources easier to access for members in all branches. About 90% of the members involved in the caucus were linemen when Mullen took over.

Its annual meeting was extended from two to three days for the first time this year. Mullen said he's also worked to keep costs down so more people can attend.

"I think we've been able to reach more members than we ever have before," he said. "My message to everyone is no matter where you work, if you're an IBEW member, we have something for you."

In retirement, Mullen and his wife plan to relocate to southeastern Wisconsin to be closer to family in the Midwest. They have five children and nine grandchildren.

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


David Mullen