CO-OP Careers: Patrick Lichlyter
Manager of Operations
Finding a home at the electric cooperative
Patrick Lichlyter wasn’t sure what career he wanted to pursue after high school. But once he hired on as an apprentice lineman at an electric cooperative, he knew he never wanted to leave. And despite changing roles and duties three times since then, he’s still at the place he’s always wanted to be.
Today, the 60-year-old Lichlyter is manager of operations at Jasper-based Dubois REC. No longer working atop power poles with 7,200 volts of electricity, he makes it his top professional and personal duty to ensure the linemen under him get to go home at the end of every day.
“I feel that I'm responsible for those guys out there. When they walk in here in the morning until they leave, I will do whatever it takes to make sure these guys get their job done right, done safely, and get home to their families.”
Lichlyter said he loved the work as a lineman: being outdoors, working with a team of “such good guys,” and doing physical labor. But around 2007, when he was 46, he had his first bout with crippling back spasms that left him face-down in a trench one day. The sporadic problems continued for a few more years, coming out of the blue during seemingly small tasks, and he began to worry if he could continue doing the physically demanding lineman’s job. “I didn’t know if I could make it being a lineman the rest of my life,” he said. “But I wanted to retire here.”
In 2010, a position in the metering department opened at the cooperative, and Lichlyter saw an opportunity to stay with the place he loved without the physical stress on his back. In 2015, an energy advisory role was also added to his duties which gave him a chance to work with the electric cooperative’s consumers directly, solving problems and helping them with high electric bills.
But he missed the camaraderie and being with the special group of workers who literally keep the lights on. In 2017, the manager of operations position opened. Lichlyter wasn’t certain he was the person for that advanced position, but his CEO at the time and the linemen he once worked with all encouraged him to go for it. “Once a lineman, always a lineman,” he said. “This was my opportunity to get back with those guys and work with them again.”
No matter what the job is at the co-op, however, Lichlyter points out, every employee and job is valued. That’s what makes the co-op special. “Everybody is somebody here. Everybody cares about the people here, and cares about the consumers. It's just a special atmosphere.”
Though Patrick Lichlyter wasn’t sure what Dubois REC even did when he signed on as an apprentice lineman in 1987, he knew right away it was the kind of place he wanted to work until he retired. Despite recurring back problems that would make linework impossible, he was given other opportunities at the REC and today manages the outdoor operations.
1987 — Hired at Dubois REC as an apprentice lineman: working with line crews and learning the trade while taking both hands-on and instructional classes in the four-year apprenticeship program.
1991 — Graduated from a four-year apprenticeship training program as a journeyman lineman: working outdoors building, repairing and maintaining overhead and underground power lines; of ten working with energized power lines.
2010 — Moved to meter department: testing meters; hooking up three-phase metering; replacing existing meters throughout the system when the REC moved to automated meters.
2015 — Added energy advisor to meter department duties: investigating the causes behind a high bill; conducting blower-door tests; checking home insulation; and working with consumers to reduce energy use.
2017 — Promoted to manager of operations: overseeing construction, maintenance, and operation of the power distribution system; overseeing all safety practices and rules for the line department; working with other staff to maintain efficient daily operations; overseeing the purchasing of line trucks and other vehicles; overseeing the cooperative’s compliance with state and federal rules and regulations.