WENATCHEE — Chelan County PUD employee Terry McFadden thought they were going to a Leavenworth warehouse for a safety check. But that was just a ploy from McFadden’s boss to get him out of the office.
“He sent us on a wild-goose chase up in Leavenworth for no reason,” he said last month. “So while I was gone, a whole bunch of people turned this into a party room.”
McFadden, 68, came back to find 60 people in his Wenatchee warehouse behind the PUD’s headquarters at Fifth Street and Wenatchee Avenue. It was a surprise party to celebrate McFadden’s 43.3 years at the district.
By hitting that mark, he’s now the longest-tenured employee in the utility’s history. The previous record holder was a former Puget Sound Power and Light employee who came over to the PUD when it purchased the county’s electrical system in 1948.
“I just wanted a real PUD person on the top,” McFadden said. “That was my driver.”
McFadden started in August 1976 and plans to extend his tenure for at least the the next year or two. “All I tell everybody is I’ll retire in less than three years,” he said.
Nearly all of his time at the utility has been spent working in the PUD’s materials division. He’s now foreman of the Wenatchee warehouse.
It’s the central hub that keeps PUD crews supplied with parts for repairs and new construction in the power distribution or fiber optic systems, he said.
McFadden has had a hand in designing just about every process in the materials division.
When he started, there were no computers — everything was recorded using three-layer carbon copies. Now the thousands of parts kept on hand are tracked using a stock number system McFadden designed.
In the mid-80s to early 90s, McFadden also helped expand the utility’s warehouse network. It went from a single facility on Fifth Street to having satellites on Hawley Street, the two Columbia River dams, and in Chelan and Leavenworth.
McFadden still helps train new employees that enter the department, he said.
“All the new people who come on as materials specialists, they wanted me to train them all so at least they get it right once,” he said with a laugh.
And that, McFadden said, is one of the best parts of the job.
“The rewarding part of it is seeing the new people come in, getting to train them and learn about them, and becoming their foreman and their friend,” he said. “... I like the fact that we have different people here all the time. It keeps me engaged. ... and I get to have some fun along the way.”