“If there’s anything we can do as a company, please let us know, we’re here to help.” If you’ve ever worked with San Isabel Electric Assistant Line Superintendent Eddie Smith, you have heard him say that phrase countless times. And he means it, too. The phrase embodies him.

This month, Eddie retires after 28 years of service with the electric co-op. Smith is a second-generation San Isabel Electric lineworker. “My dad was like Superman to me, and I wanted to be like that. People looked up to him because he was a lineman. It’s becoming less like that these days.”

These days, most people groan when they wake up and have to reset a blinking microwave clock. They don’t think about the lineworkers who got out of bed, drove through back roads in the wind, rain, snow, or heat to find the cause of the outage, in the dark, and fixed it. All while the rest of us were soundly sleeping, safely in our beds. Lineworkers love working outages. “We’re sick. I know it,” Smith jests. “It challenges the mind. First, it’s the challenge of figuring out the problem and how to solve it. Then, it’s actually getting it done. The satisfaction comes when you restore something everyone is depending on and needs,” he explained.

As much as Smith loves working outages, he loves what he’s able to do in his role as Assistant Line Superintendent more. “I’ve loved the whole journey. As assistant superintendent, I like helping the linecrews and tree trimmers. If someone calls, I like being able to go right over and solve their problem.”

Seeing things through to completion is another favorite part of his job. But now transitioning into retirement, it’s something that gives him some anxiety as well. “I want to do it all. I want to finish what I’ve started. But it’s not possible. There’s always a new project beginning. Now is a good stopping point,” Smith said. The list of Smith’s accomplishments is long. He oversaw a total rebuild of the electric grid in the city of Walsenburg. Everything from the ground up was replaced. The project took six years and was completed in 2020. He also oversaw an upgrade project in the Cuchara-Panadero area and the upgrade of the co-op’s main line that runs from Pueblo West to Burro Canyon in Las Animas County. Together, the upgrade projects reduced the amount of time the average member is without power by more than half.

He’s an integral part in planning and making day-to-day decisions, along with Line Superintendent Kevin Schleich and System Engineer Clinton Smith, who is Eddie’s son. “They might want to arm wrestle to settle who did the most work.” joked SIEA Chief Operating Officer Darryl Stewart. When you ask Eddie if he’s counting down the days, he’ll jab, “No! Why? Are you?” And if you ask him what his plans are in retirement, his answer is, “I don’t have any, but my wife sure does.” If you can get him to stop trying to make you laugh, he’ll tell you about how he’s looking forward to traveling and spending more time with his wife and family in retirement.

If you live in Huerfano County, it’s highly possible you’ve met Eddie. You may have bumped into him at a church function or community planning meeting. He and his family are very active in their church in Cuchara, and Smith works very closely with emergency managers, elected officials, and non-government leaders to keep Huerfano County safe and growing. Since he became assistant line superintendent in 2017, he’s been
the face of San Isabel Electric in Huerfano County. During the Spring Fire in 2018, Smith was the point of contact for the federal incident management team, along with Schleich.

“After that fire, I had trouble sleeping. I couldn’t forget the images of the faces of my friends and neighbors after they found out they’d lost everything.” That’s the downside of being a lineworker. As he drove around the burn area, Eddie could see the  devastation it was causing each member. They lost so much.

“As a lineworker, our main priority is to get the power back on to each and every member when the lights go out. It deeply saddens me when someone calls up and says ‘Ed can you turn my lights back on,’ and I have to say ‘no.’” During the fire, Eddie had to say no because the fire’s command staff ordered the lines to be de-energized to keep firefighters safe and prevent the fire from spreading. But sometimes, during storms, it
could be several hours or, rarely, days, before crews make repairs for the meters at the end of the line.

“Members have called and explained their loved one just had surgery, is having trouble staying warm, and they really need the power back on. And it’s heartbreaking when the only thing I can tell them is we are doing everything we can, and won’t quit until their power is back on,” he said.

Eddie’s day-to-day job is to oversee the line and tree trimming crews. Most days he works 12 hours, not counting the time spent answering the phone before he gets out of bed, and the time picking up calls after he walks through his front door at the end of the day. “Eddie Smith embodies everything a company could ask for in an employee. His work ethic is unmatched. He cares about his fellow employees, our members, and the communities we serve. He leaves a legacy of service at San Isabel Electric,” General Manager Ryan Elarton said.

Quoting George Strait, “Oh, the last goodbye’s the hardest one to say. This is where the cowboy rides away.” Elarton said. “He’s riding away, but this will not be goodbye.”