Back when Fort Collins was a small town, gas was 65 cents a gallon and Jimmy Carter was President, Benny Salazar was just coming on board the team at Poudre Valley REA. Looking for a job after high school from Poudre High School, Benny had a friend who worked at the REA and told him, "Yeah, come down and apply." Thirty-seven years later he’s hanging up his hard hat as Working Foreman for retirement.
When he first started at the REA, Benny worked in the warehouse in the old building on Olive Street in Fort Collins, taking care of job orders and managing materials to go out with the line crew. After that he worked as a Groundman where he was out with the line crew and helped assemble parts on the ground and sent materials up to the guy at the top of the pole.
"I didn’t know anything about line work when I started," Benny commented.
But he loved working outside and the camaraderie found on the lines between the linemen, so he spent the next four years working his way as an Apprentice Lineman where he learned how to work on the lines. In 1983 Benny became a Journeyman Lineman for the REA with a team of a little over 30 line crew. They had just two bucket trucks and worked to repair and keep up maintenance on the lines with paper maps.
"It was hard to keep those maps updated, and none of our trucks had air conditioning! Technology has come a long ways since then," Benny laughed as he remembered the good ol’ days.
1983 was a hard year for Poudre Valley REA when a huge snowstorm raged through Northern Colorado, bringing heavy loads of snow and taking down over 800 poles. Benny remembers putting in 16 hour days for two weeks straight, working hard alongside all of the Poudre Valley REA employees and linemen from other co-ops who had traveled to Northern Colorado to help with restoration efforts.
"Being on an outage call was always exciting. When you have an outage going on, you have to use your brain more. You have to figure out where the outage is coming from, what the problem is…it’s hard work."
It was hard work back then, and still is now for all of our linemen that have worked hundreds of hours through natural disasters over the years like the recent floods and wildfires.
“My most favorite part of the job has been troubleshooting when outages come through. Going out and getting people’s power back on, that was the most gratifying for me. When their lights come back on after being off for 2 or 3 hours….I’ll miss that,” Benny commented.
But what Benny says he’ll miss the most is the people he works with, some of which he has worked alongside for over 30 years. Benny is retiring this month in June where he plans to spend more time fishing and working on his classic 1965 el Camino. Thank you for your years of hard work and dedication, Benny!