NAPLES, FL – Chris Link has been named the 2016 TAUC James J. Willis Craftperson of the Year.
The award, which recognizes outstanding labor-management cooperation and quality craftsmanship in the union construction and maintenance industries, was presented at a special ceremony on May 5 at TAUC’s annual Leadership Conference at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Florida.
Chris Link is a lineman and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 351 in Hammonton, New Jersey. He was nominated by Matrix NAC for his outstanding leadership and planning on the Atlantic City Electric (ACE) 67 Rebuild, which spanned nearly 23 miles in Galloway Township, New Jersey.
The ACE 67 project was incredibly complex. Chris coordinated and oversaw the removal of more than 200 wood electrical poles and eight miles of wire, as well as the installation of 198 new replacement steel monopoles, each one averaging 90 feet in length. Eight miles of new 3 phase1590 ACSR conductor for the 69kV circuit was also installed, along with eight miles of OPGW static wire and underbuild.
“Chris coordinated significant amounts of work zone safety with both local police and work zone subcontractors, because the project needed to go through many busy roadways located in residential and commercial neighborhoods,” Matrix NAC said when it nominated Chris for the award. “He also provided excellent leadership skills on ACE 67 by laying out the work ahead for the line crews and scheduling the civil subcontractors in a timely manner which led to the project completing safely, ahead of schedule and under budget. ”
“Chris is the kind of guy that looks at a job and says, ‘Wow, this can be done,” said Mike Kleva, Construction Representative for Atlantic City Electric. “Everybody else was saying, ‘You guys will never get that job done.’ Chris accepts that challenge and figures out a way that he will get it done, and he puts that confidence into the guys that he is leading.”
“It’s a team concept, and he knows how to get everybody to work together as a team to move the project forward and make sure it’s successful,” added Lonnie Stephenson, International President of the IBEW.
“He cares about his people,” said Brian Jopling, Project Manager for Matrix NAC. “He makes sure they’re using the right tooling. He wants to make sure these guys are going back home to their families at the end of the day.”
“I’m happy when something is being built, and it’s a job well done,” Chris said. “It’s no one person. I’m nobody without a team of good guys around me…Once you get into this trade, it’s a family, and from there on, it becomes who you are.”
Safety is always the top priority for Chris, and he is well aware of the stakes every time a lineman climbs a pole. “Firemen run into a fire, but a lineman has that fire in his hands a lot of the time,” he said.
Perhaps Ed Gant, Business Manager for Local 351, put it best. “People trust Chris,” he said. “They know he will not put them in jeopardy. Being a lineman is a very dangerous job description.”
About the James J. Willis Craftperson of the Year Award
The James J. Willis Craftperson of the Year Award honors outstanding labor-management cooperation and quality craftsmanship in the union construction and maintenance industries. It is given to building trades members who have a gift for recognizing the vision of a project and can bring that vision to fruition in a professional manner. Apprentices, journeymen, foremen and general foremen from all crafts are eligible for nomination. The recognition program was originally created in 1989 as the Craftsman of the Year Award. TAUC changed the name in 2008 to memorialize James J. Willis, Sr. He was a dear friend and supporter of TAUC and an authentic leader within the union construction industry for more than five decades.
Jim started out as an apprentice ironworker in 1945 at the age of just 16 and eventually rose to the rank of First General Vice President within the international union. He also served as President and Labor Co-Chairman of the National Maintenance Agreements Policy Committee, Inc. (NMAPC) from 1988-2000.
Jim was hugely influential within the union construction industry, and his steadfast commitment to fairness and cooperation was legendary. It is fitting that the award bearing his name honors a union worker who demonstrates unparalleled leadership and professionalism, because Jim exhibited the same qualities throughout his life.
The James J. Willis Craftperson of the Year Award recognizes five categories of achievement:
Projects must be completed in the calendar year of the award. Nominations are forwarded to our judge’s panel to be evaluated and ranked in each category. This year, the members of the James J. Willis Award Task Force were: Joe Lasky, Scheck Industries; William Kroeger, AGC of Missouri; and Jacob Snyder with Enerfab Power and Industrial.
The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC) is the premier national trade association for the 21st century union construction and maintenance industries. Our more than 2,000 member firms include union contractor companies, local union contractor associations and vendors in the industrial maintenance and construction fields. We demonstrate that union construction and maintenance are the best options because they are safer and more productive, and provide a higher quality and cost-competitive product. For more information, log on to www.tauc.org.