Protecting the code: a decade of safety leadership

In 2006, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers asked that I throw my hat into the ring to become chair of the National Electrical Safety Code. I was flattered to be considered for this lofty position to chair both the main and executive committees of "The Code," but I wondered how I could ever handle chairing this utility-focused, industry consensus code for two full five-year cycles. Ten years as chair seemed at the time to be more of a prison sentence than an opportunity. However, I jumped in willingly, because they believed in me.

Looking back, how did my ten-year term work out? It was not a sentence. The decade flew by with admiration, exhilaration, and success.

Admiration? Absolutely! The first thing I learned in taking the helm at the code was that this consensus standard has been created by and improved upon by some of the most hard working, intelligent folks in the industry. Hundreds of dedicated committee, subcommittee, and working group members — representing a variety of organizations — work to improve the safety of the employees who work in communications and electric service, as well as the people who depend on these critical services.

I had attended executive and subcommittee meetings at IEEE headquarters in the past, but as chair the vital work took on a different meaning. These folks are devoted to the code. Add the ever present Sue Vogel — IEEE secretariat of the NESC for the past 25 years. I was awed to just see my name by theirs.

Exhilaration? Ironic, but you betcha! The main committee of the code had not met since the early 90s. I couldn't believe it! "Why not?" I asked and never received a good answer. I requested that the NESC main committee meet for the first time at APPA's headquarters in Washington, DC. We embarked on a decade that brought us new opportunities in a rapidly changing electrical industry. In fact, there was so much energy in the room that the main committee voted to meet again. We decided to meet three times during each five-year cycle. And what a difference face to face meetings can make! Collectively we became more active, discussed more issues, and ultimately plotted a path to ensure the NESC of 2116 will be as relevant as it is today.

Success! I guess what makes me most proud of these past ten years is the success we had despite many challenges. The NESC team under my leadership:

  • Orchestrated the formation of the NEC (National Electric Code)/NESC joint task force to collaborate on technical issues shared by these two important codes.
  • Put on the first NESC Summit in 100 years, where more than 100 attendees discussed the current and future use of the code over two and a half days.
  • Produced six videos of NESC volunteers explaining what the NESC is, why it is important, and issues pertinent to its future.
  • Organized a field trip with the main committee to a solar generation facility in Southern California to learn how the NESC intersects with the fast-growing field of renewable energy.
  • Debuted a MOOC on the NESC. That's a "Massive Open Online Course" that goes over the basics of the NESC.
  • Transitioned the process of proposed changes to the code to an all-electronic platform.
  • Rolled out the first-ever NESC mobile app.
  • Built bridges to organizations that had not been involved in the NESC recently, most notably the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.


I'm certain there's more that I've missed or forgotten. Maybe I only want to remember all the good things as I transition to past chair in September.

I leave NESC is in fine hands, as Nelson Bingel of Osmose Utilities Services and Danna Liebhaber of Bonneville Power Administration take the reins in September. I have no doubt that the code will proliferate and evolve as it continues to do what it does best: protect the public and the men and women who bring essential services to them."