Employee Spotlight: Casey Walton

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Casey Walton is a Project Engineering Technician and has worked for KEC for seven years. 

How did you train for work in this field?

After I graduated from high school, I worked in the construction industry building roads and installing municipal water and wastewater systems. Later, I decided to pursue higher education and graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. From there I started working for a local civil engineering firm. This education and experience prepared me for most aspects of my role as a Project Engineering Technician. In addition, KEC’s dedication to investing in employees with continued training has helped fill any gaps. 

What made you interested in working for KEC?

The culture. Talking with the crews in the past I could tell they enjoyed where they worked. This was also evident in the long tenure the employees have at KEC. I figured this only happened because of good culture and appreciation KEC has for its employees. 

What does a day look like for you as a Project Engineering Technician?

In my role, I am responsible for electric distribution line design, preparation of construction drawings, setting of field stakes and mapping services. My typical day consists of communicating with new and existing members regarding their projects, reviewing maintenance data that is collected by our field inspectors and preparing the necessary paperwork for our crews to complete construction work.

Tell us about the FEMA grant KEC received to put overhead lines underground in the Spirit Lake East subdivision.

In January 2021, a severe windstorm swept through the Inland Northwest causing extensive damage and widespread power outages. The damage to KEC’s system was staggering. At its height, more than half of KEC’s members were left without power. The storm caused nearly $2 million in damages including numerous broken poles, lines and other damaged equipment. After the storm, a federal emergency was declared for Kootenai County which allowed KEC to apply for a mitigation grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). We recently learned we were awarded the grant to convert approximately 22 miles of the most problematic overhead lines in the Spirit Lake East subdivision to underground. The purpose of this project is to mitigate risk and improve power reliability during extreme weather events. The grant will reimburse KEC more than $10 million or 90% of project construction costs.

My role in this project includes designing the new underground electric distribution lines, staking the project area and later ensuring the construction process is smooth. I coordinate with KEC staff from various departments to obtain the necessary paperwork requested by FEMA to make this project possible. I am also responsible for communicating with our membership in the area to ensure they are aware of the project and how it will affect them. 

What is the biggest challenge in your job?

I would say the biggest challenge is balancing all the projects that are going on at any given time. As you are aware, our area is experiencing rapid growth. With this growth, there are a lot of new members being added to the KEC system and upgrades to existing infrastructure to ensure KEC’s electrical system is reliable. It is my job to assist a team of individuals to make sure all this work is being done in an organized and efficient manner. 

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is interacting with the membership. Whether it is staking maintenance projects or large capital projects, the membership is always welcoming and appreciative of all the work it takes to keep the lights on.