Retired U.S. Navy
For an electrician thinking about finding a new job, it’s appropriate to have a light bulb moment.
On his way to Coors Field to watch Rockies game, Emery was riding light rail when he happened to glance over at a traction power substation.
That’s a large piece of complicated electrical equipment that probably goes unnoticed by the average RTD customer. But a traction power substation is key to light rail. The stations convert electricity from the power company to the right current for light rail cars. For a guy with extensive electrical experience, including six years in the U.S. Navy, gazing at the substation was a galvanizing moment.
And the light bulb went off.
“I thought, ‘Oh, that’s right. This stuff is all electric. I could do this.’ So I got on to RTD’s website and found a signal/traction power position and applied,” Emery said.
At the time, Emery was working as an electrician in a brick factory. He hated breathing the dust and dirt. A job at RTD, Emery realized, might offer the perfect escape.
Emery, drawing on previous jobs as well as the confidence and experience he had gained when he served on two ships for the U.S. Navy, got hired. And he hasn’t looked back, even though there was a steep learning curve to RTD’s electrical systems.
“It was very hard,” Emery said. “Railroad is a lot different than anything else, even in all my experiences as an industrial electrician. I mean, I could apply it, but some of the ways RTD does things are really different.”
Emery spent a few years as a signal traction power maintainer and then was promoted to supervisor. Five years later, he was promoted again to instructor.
Emery was always a quick learner. He scored well on entrance exams coming into his military service. But growing up in the small Oregon town of Canby, about 25 miles south of Portland, Emery was “pretty timid … I was basically a farm boy from a small town.”
Military runs in the family. Emery’s father and grandfather served in the Navy. His uncle served in Vietnam.
Emery went through boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois. Stationed in Long Beach, California, Emery shipped out on the frigate USS Gary FFG-51 (he was assigned even before the ship was launched). Then he was stationed at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, aboard the USS Ingersoll DD990, a destroyer. The Navy took Emery to Australia, South Korea and the Philippines.
Emery pondered a career in the military, but he wanted a dog even more. So after returning to Canby and spending a couple years in Northern California, he and a woman he met while dancing in Portland moved to the Denver area, where he had also lived as a youth. Emery and his wife have been married for 30 years.
At RTD today, Emery onboards new hires with orientation and safety training. He oversees major repairs when needed and develops new content for the training manual and related online training tools.
RTD, said Emery, is a “good fit” for those with a military mindset. He points to three key ingredients.
Emery says the military provided the perfect preparation for what he does today. Potential applicants, he added, don’t need to wait for a light bulb to go off.
“The skills that you learn, no matter what they are, are definitely transferable. You look at how specialized everything is in the military. It's hard to imagine that those specialties are transferable. But they definitely are – and they are definitely needed.”