A career in the power industry certainly appeared to be a foregone conclusion for Ontonagon REA lineman Kelly Clark—it just took him a while to see it that way. His grandfather, Cyril Clark, had been general manager of the co-op during the 1960s and 70s, his father Bob retired as a line supervisor, and his brother was working as a lineman for Great Lakes Energy. So, when Kelly graduated from Ontonagon High School in 2001, he was determined to buck tradition and explore other options.
Climbing behind the wheel of a dump truck, Kelly began working in the construction industry, traveling to locations throughout the country. Most memorable for him was spending considerable time engaged in the cleanup of New Orleans following the city’s devastation by Hurricane Katrina. In fact, Kelly’s fondness for dump trucks has never quite left him. In his spare time, he enjoys tinkering with his collection of heavy equipment, hoping to use it to expand on the hobby farm he and his wife are creating.
“I resisted going into the power industry my whole life,” says Kelly. But in 2008 he had a change of heart, attending and receiving certification from a lineman’s school in Idaho. That year he became the third generation of the Clark family to work for Ontonagon REA. “He is in an interesting situation. He is the lineman with the least seniority and yet perhaps the most experience due to his family’s history in the power industry,” says Line Superintendent Bill Tucker.
When asked what he considers the best part of his job, Kelly quickly responds, “Being outside. It’s awesome because there aren’t many jobs where you are paid to work outside the majority of the time. I feel very lucky.” As for power outages? “I enjoy them. They’re an adrenaline rush, and I always like a challenge. The best part, though, is when we get the power restored, especially for customers who’ve been without it for a while.”
Tucker is grateful to have Kelly as part of the OntoREA team. “Kelly brings his enthusiasm to work every day. He is always looking for innovative tools and equipment to make things better. He is a hard worker and doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff. As the guy on the bottom of the seniority pole, he, of course, takes a lot of ribbing from the rest of the crew. He can’t wait for us to hire another lineman so he can finally play the seniority card.” And along with a great work ethic he also brings a great sense of humor, “Kelly is our comedian-amongst-comedians,” Tucker concludes.
Kelly is just one of the Ontonagon REA Co-op’s dedicated team of employees that strive to provide their members with reliable and cost-effective power every day.