Seattle City (spot)Light: Bear Holter

Machinist Crew Chief Bear Holter has worked at City Light for 25 years. Currently, he oversees the hydroelectric maintenance at Boundary Dam. “We handle the mechanical maintenance at the powerhouse,” Bear explained. “Things like turbine overhauls and other mechanical work. We also maintain our mobile equipment and take care of the dam’s spillgates. There’s so much we do—we’re the jack of all trades.”

Born in Metaline Falls, Bear served in the Navy for four years doing welding, construction and working on submarines. His first position at City Light was a machinist specialist at Skagit. When he learned of an opening at Boundary, he applied for the transfer. “I always knew I wanted to get back to Boundary,” he said. “I remember the dam being built. My grandparents took me to it when I was a kid so it means a lot to me.”

Bear lives in Sullivan Lake with his wife, Lynn—their home sits behind the house in which Bear was raised! They’re active members of the community, including their alma mater, Selkirk High School, where Bear does announcing for sporting events. “I’m the voice of the Rangers!” he exclaimed. In this week’s (spot)Light, Bear talks about his career inspiration and life at Boundary.

Bear and Lynn at Frank Slide in British Columbia

“There are six of us on my team. One of the biggest jobs we’ve done was rebuilding a generator. We took the whole thing apart, piece by piece. We got it cleared down to the runner, which is the water wheel or the big thing that spins when the water hits it. When that comes out, we install seal rings to hold it in place. All the bearings get done. The rotor comes out. There are many steps, and, in the end, we put it all back together. It’s a big job that takes about one year to complete. It’s quite a deal.”

“I loved working at Skagit. My daughters grew up there, but I knew the only way I could get back to Boundary was as a machinist. I wanted to be an iron worker for the City, but the only opening at Boundary was taken by my brother, Randy! He was five years ahead of me so I knew I wouldn’t get to Boundary as an ironworker. I took up the machinist trade and went through the apprenticeship. In fact, I was the first City Light apprentice through the machinist program. When I learned of the machinist opening at Boundary, I went for it and, along the way, I became crew chief.”

“I wanted to get in the utility business because my dad was a lifer at Box Canyon Dam which is here locally. He spent 32 years there. It was good to our family so I figured it was a good line of work to get into. You can say he was my early source of inspiration. He also worked ten years here at Boundary.  Randy and I followed in his footsteps. In fact, Randy just celebrated 30 years with City Light.”

“Metaline Falls was a great place to grow up and I’m glad I returned. It has fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation that I enjoy. Up at the dam, we’re a tight-knit group. We work hard together and it’s not uncommon to see each other around town. I just love that small-town feel.”

City Light Finalizes RSJI Work Plan for 2014

City Light has finalized its Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) work plan for 2014. As part of its RSJI plan for the year, Seattle City Light will focus on the equity areas of education, equitable development, housing, jobs/economic justice, the environment, and service equity.

The work plan is part of a larger citywide effort to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all people, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Seattle City Light is committed to removing the barriers that prevent all people from attaining the same access to opportunity in its hiring practices and customer service, as well as creating a community enriched by Seattle’s diverse cultures with full participation from all residents. City Light strives to implement outreach and engage with the public in a manner that reflects the diversity of the customers in its service area.

The city’s initiative is led by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights and various city staff, and is supported by all City of Seattle elected officials. More information about the initiative can be found on the city of Seattle’s RSJI website.

A few highlights from the Seattle City Light RSJI 2014 Work Plan include the following:

  • Seattle City Light will continue its efforts through the Powerful Neighborhoods program to reach seniors, non-English speaking households and low-income residents.  This program includes the direct installation of efficient lighting and water-saving showerheads in multifamily properties. Special emphasis is placed on outreach to affordable housing providers and their residents, with a goal of reaching at least 3,500 multifamily households.
  • City Light will partner with Seattle University to sponsor engineering projects for racially diverse teams of students to develop their skills, provide the opportunity to exhibit their work, and advance their education with real-life projects.
  • City Light’s 2014 goal is to reach 150 families with its HomeWise low-income weatherization program.
  • City Light will continue to partner with tribes in the implementation of cultural and natural resource protection and restoration in its work on the Boundary Project as well as the Skagit Project. In addition, the utility will assure communication on cultural resource issues as well as contracting opportunities are available for the Kalispel and Skagit River tribes.
  • In an effort to achieve equity in access to living wage jobs, City Light will increase opportunities for internships in the Seattle Youth Employment Program, as well as promote its Tuition Reimbursement Program and develop specific targets for closing any gaps in diversity in its workforce.
  • City Light is dedicated to building a workforce that reflects or exceeds the racial demographics of the communities it serves. In order to achieve that goal, the utility requires all staff members involved in hiring processes to be trained on Workforce Equity and Human Resources RSJI Best Practices. Furthermore, its 2014 plan includes deepening ties with diverse community and educational organizations to recruit interns and job candidates.
  • In addition, City Light actively seeks to work with Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) and Women and Minority-owned Businesses (WMBE).  Its RSJI 2014 Work Plan includes specific outreach event commitments, as well as target goals for spending on consulting and purchasing expenditures with these firms.
  • Seattle City Light is prioritizing streetlight upgrades in historically underserved areas such as the Holly Park SHA residential neighborhood in order to provide safer electrical systems and to ensure streets are well-lit at night.
  • The utility also provides free interpreter services for customers as well as offers translated printed information in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Somali, Tagalog, Korean and other languages commonly used among City Light customers. As part of the RSJI 2014 Work Plan, City Light will continue to host community meetings and focus groups designed for historically underrepresented communities, all of which are supported by interpretation and translation services.

City Light supports a number of other programs and initiatives designed to alleviate inequity including the Utility Discount Program and Project Share.

The Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative began in 2004. At the time, no other US city had so directly focused on institutional racism and working to improve racial equity. Seattle was the first city in the nation to explicitly focus on undoing institutional racism. Institutional racism is defined by the city of Seattle Office for Civil Rights as the policies, practices and procedures that often unintentionally or inadvertently work to the benefit of certain groups and to the detriment of others.

More information about Seattle City Light’s Race and Social Justice Initiative efforts can be found on our website. For more details about the City of Seattle’s efforts to achieve racial equity, please click here.