Sam Bowen, our Senior Vice President has decided to retire. Sam graduated from Middle Tennessee University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1977. He began working in Transmission Powerline Industry in 1978. In 1990, Sam joined the Dillard Smith Construction Company as an estimator. He eventually became the President of Dillard Smith and an owner. After merging with Quanta Services in 1999, he remained as the President of Dillard Smith through 2003. In 2008, Sam returned to Dillard Smith. In 2012, Dillard merged with Service Electric Company and he has served as a Senior VP of Transmission Construction since that time.
Before we let him go, we wanted to ask him some things to share and the Chattanooga office celebrated with a going-away party.
Q&A for Sam Bowen:
What do you like best about SEC? – The Team Members of SEC and the energy they possess! Over the 40 years, I have worked in the powerline business, I have met and worked alongside some of the best people in the industry and I see the best of all here at SEC!! I personally wish to Thank every SEC employee for the camaraderie shared at our company! I have appreciated the friendliness, the courtesy, the willingness, and the considerations shown by every employee we have! You guys are Simply The Best!!
Over the years with SEC, what has changed/grown, and what have you learned. – I went to work for Commonwealth Electric Company (Union) when I was 19 years old. I had a year of undergraduate work at MTSU under my belt. I went to work for Commonwealth Electric Company building a 230kV steel T-Line for Savannah Electric & Power. Workplace cultures, stringent Union behaviors, and the lack of sound safety culture were the issues I believe would stand out to any new employee! I worked in the field for a year and went back to MTSU with some cash to pay for the balance of my schooling. After graduation, I went to Minnesota to work on a couple of large 500kV T-Line projects for Northern States Power for 3 years. That was an interesting time for a young man from the south living in and working outside along the Canadian border during the winter. But I saw culture changes, especially with Safety, coming within our industry!
In 1980 I was asked to transfer into the new Commonwealth Electric Company office in Marietta, GA. CECO had built many of the 500kV T-lines around Atlanta in the late 1970s and we’re bidding on projects nationwide as much of the electrical grid was being built. I remained with the CECO companies, functioning as the VP of their non-union T-line brand, Transpower for 3 years. I met our Jerry R. Smith when he was a VP at Dillard Smith Construction Company. I thank him to this day for hiring me to work at DSCC. I would eventually have the opportunity to own, along with my partners, DSCC. When we were sought out by Quanta Services, Quanta was a newly formed IPO, formed by four Platform companies. That was an exciting time! After our merger with Q, I remained as the President at DSCC for 4 years and retired. Afterward, I took 4 years off to focus on my family. When my children hit teenage years and I realized as Dad I wasn’t cool anymore, I went back to work, at DSCC. The merger with SEC came 4 years after that and none of us has looked back, only ahead!!
When I came into this industry line worker’s spirit, the strong work ethic and the pride of being a Lineman was something that got into your blood, like it does today! There were differences in attitudes, and cultures, as I mentioned above, but those have grown and changed to be more positive over the years.
Safety PPE was not always provided; or at least not to the degree, we do today. Safety rules were more verbal when I began my career in the field and seemed to remain primarily verbal for much of the 1980s. I witnessed and participated in specific, written Safety Plans and Manuals when I joined DSCC. I have witnessed so much growth in this arena of our industry, both on the Contracting side and the Utility side; and the Union and NECA sides. Being a part of the Safety Culture growth has been one of the best things I have participated in. We ALL want every employee to come home to their families and loved ones!
In the late 1970s, poles and towers were climbed by employees. Not every company had bucket trucks or cranes that fit the job task. Much of the equipment found on T-line projects were leftovers from the Department of Defense. The equipment was what was needed for diverse terrains; what was readily available and what was affordable back then. And it was also uncomfortable as could be! We are blessed at SEC to have the modern and safe equipment that we have been provided to work with.
I thank Jody Shea and Keith Sheppard for their attitudes and forward-thinking on improving and continuing to improve our Safety Standards, our SEC Safety Culture, and to year after year, add to the incredible Equipment Fleet we have here at SEC.
How are all the Bowens related and what was it like working with them? – VP, Jim Bowen is my older brother and best friend! We have worked for one another and together at three different powerline companies. We had two uncles (my Mom’s brothers) who were Superintendents for two different companies years ago. One uncle worked for Irby (non-union) and one uncle worked for Commonwealth Electric Company (union), both Supers on the Transmission side. So, the love of this industry has been in our family for a long time and is a profession our family honors. Jim’s son, Jimmy, is my nephew. And it makes me feel honored that Jimmy Bowen, is continuing this trend as a third-generation line worker employee, Estimator, Transmission Line manager, and VP of SEC!
What do you enjoy doing outside of work now? – I enjoy being with my kids as much as possible. I enjoy spending time in Belize, where my son and I own some property adjoining a small resort on the mainland. And I just purchased a Villa on Ambergris Caye, BZ. My Central American home on this Commonwealth Protectorate, is just north of San Pedro, AKA “La Isla Bonita” and sits on San Pedro Lagoon, and about a 5 minute walk away from the Caribbean and the world’s second-longest Barrier Reef! Along with Belize, I will enjoy being home on my property and in my home, here in Hixson, TN, and doing some of my own outdoor chores that I have farmed out for far too many years! Lol!
Both of my children are artistic and creative, each in their own way! And, I suppose we all are artistic and creative in our own ways. I began collecting original art over 10 years ago and along the way met some interesting, well-known artists here in the USA, (both coasts) and in Europe. And I attended Art Basel Miami, one of the USA’s premier Art Shows in 2019. During my first years of collecting, my kids and I got the art bug!
When exactly do you plan to retire and what are your plans for after? – My retirement date is May 14, 2021. As I was approaching retirement age, I began thinking about the Bowen family’s art fascination and I thought about creating Bowen Art Reserve to sell some of the excess art we had purchased over the years. My son is an attorney and we set our company up at the end of 2020!
Do you have kids? – Yes, two. My daughter will soon enter her 3rd year of Residency. She attended the University of GA (Go Dawgs) for undergraduate work; the University of Florida for her Veterinary Degree; and has spent two years of her Residency (specializing in Veterinarian Care) at The Blue Pearl ER (animal Trauma hospital) in Tampa, FL. Her plans after this next year are still flexible, but I can imagine her either teaching at a University Hospital or owning a clinic of her own or possibly both! My son is a Texas Bar certified attorney. He attended the University of Alabama (Roll Tide) for undergraduate work; Washington & Lee Law School for his JD; and went to work for Steptoe & Johnson in Charleston, WV, and Houston, TX. He is engaged to a beautiful girl from Chattanooga, and both are of a Gen Z mindset with entrepreneurship near the top of their list. I am blessed to be a partner with my son and daughter in newly begun, family-owned small businesses.
Do you have any advice you live by, that you would give to your younger self, or would just like to share? – I do and I have shared this with so many of our employees because it rings true. The first is: Make Peace with your Past! The second, I learned while helping our Lee Griffith when he was my son’s Little League coach back in the early 2000s. I was running DSCC and trying to make every game I could, help Coach Lee and learn what I could about the young kids. As I watched this Team come together, I was witnessing a God Moment! These young kids were not all talented, ALIKE. ALL of THEM were TALENTED, as is written in the Bible. Many of them did not realize their talents as they applied to baseball, but Coach Lee helped them clarify and see their TALENTS! And I learned a very valuable lesson that has helped me in being a Man, a Husband, a Father, and a Manager of a great Mountain Region Team on the AEP properties in OH, WV, KY, and VA.
In life, we are not all First Basemen, or Pitchers, or Catchers, or Top Scoring Batters. However, it takes each and every one of us to make a TEAM! So, to all the employees of SEC, discover your own talents. You have them! And encourage your loved ones, your fellow employees, and group members to discover theirs!!
Pictured here are Sam and his brother Jim along with the commissioned painting.
In the video below, Sam describes some of the meanings behind the images in the painting.
Thank you for all that you have done Sam! We will miss you and wish you the best.