Seattle City (spot)Light: Lori Fowler

Lori Fowler has served as the Senior Gardener at the utility’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project for the past seven months. “I’m tasked with developing and maintaining our landscapes in a sustainable manner,” Lori explained. “We also ensure that our work reflects our current values while giving a nod to the historical and paying honor to what was here before.”

Lori was born in Seattle, but grew up in California before moving to Oregon. She attended Pacific North West Resource Management School and did coursework at Oregon State University. She and her husband Bruce live in Newhalem and have four children and three grandchildren. In this week’s (spot)Light, Lori talks about her career and her love of horticulture.

Lori and her husband Bruce

“I began my career in parks and street maintenance for municipalities. I took a small detour into social work, but found myself back into park maintenance with Oregon State Parks and, eventually, the City of Kent. I’ve always been interested in the horticulture aspect, and knew the more I studied, it was where I wanted to be. So, I became a Master Gardener, received my CPH – Certified Professional Horticulturist and became ecoPRO certified for landscaping design and maintenance. I also completed coursework in Permaculture and Landscape Architectural design. Being at Skagit is the job of a lifetime which I see as a culmination of both work experience and my passion and hobby.”

“We have a lot to focus on in this area. Things have fallen into disrepair around the edges, which is common when you’re backed up against national park land and the wild. The easier tasks such as planter boxes and maintenance on Main street; areas that are most visible to our visitors, long term focus will be transitioning the area beyond. We recently planted 34 trees in the east arboretum replacing trees that were invasive. We selected interesting cultivars like Korean Fir, Eddie’s White Wonder and Magnolia sieboldii—all of which will showcase variety of texture and color as the trees mature. We’re also working on a rejuvenation project for Ladder Creek Falls where we’ll plant hundreds of native plants and improve the entrance to the area.”

“I’ve always been an outdoor person. My family spends a lot of time hiking and kayaking, but it was my husband who piqued my interest in horticulture. When we bought our first home, he wanted to landscape and, well, it was addicting. I prefer Japanese style gardens when developing personal landscapes. I like the aesthetics. The Japanese maples are my favorite. They’re exquisite. Your garden is a room and should evoke feelings and styles.”

“I live in a national park and would love to visit more national parks. I’d like to return to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. I also like to quilt. I think it has something to do with matching colors, aesthetics and textures which complements gardening.”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Debbie Martin

Debbie Martin just celebrated her 30-year anniversary with City Light. “Originally, I was brought on as a temp to help with Skagit Tours, but that evolved into a full-time position here at the Skagit,” Debbie said. “Now, I manage the bunkhouse and take care of the hospitality for our crews and visitors.”

Debbie didn’t grow up far from the Skagit Hydroelectric Project—just a short drive away in the small town of Rockport. She graduated from Concrete High School and lived in Marblemount. She now lives in Newhalem, where she’s resided the past eight years. “I just love it here,” Debbie shared. “You can’t beat the beauty of this place. Plus, I get to walk to work!”

Debbie grew up with five brothers, each of whom she loves dearly. She also has four kids and 11 grandkids. “On the weekend, my house is filled with grandkids. They love it here as much as I do!” Debbie exclaimed. In this week’s (spot)Light, Debbie talks about life at the Skagit and what she enjoys most about her role.

Debbie near the Skagit River

“One of the things I love about my job is that I get to make the out-of-towners feel welcome. I meet a lot of our crews who come to Skagit to work on different projects. They all know me. I just want to make sure they’re comfortable and happy with good food and a clean house. I guess the ‘mom’ in me comes out—I can’t help it! Right now, they’re doing a big job at Diablo with Generator 32 so we have machinists and electricians staying with us through October.”

“There’s so much to do in the Skagit Valley. We get out a lot and go camping, fishing and hiking. There’s a campground about six miles from here that’s one of our favorite spots. We also like getting out to Mount Baker. I have a little motor home, so we all pile in and make an adventure of it. I also love to garden at my house. I want my yard to look good; taking care of my flowers is important! When I was younger, my girlfriends and I would go to Ross Lake Resort and stay in the floating cabins. That was probably some of my best times up here.”

“I’ve been lucky to experience many types of roles here at the Skagit. I’ve enjoyed them all because I learned something new about the utility each time and got to meet a lot of good people. I’ve worked at the powerhouses. I’ve helped as a cook in the kitchen. I was a deck-hand for the Skagit Tours. I really loved that. I got to meet all kinds of people and the beauty of the ride was unbelievable. During that time, we did three tours a day, up to 80 people each tour. We had people from all over and it was always neat to meet people from different parts of the world. What fun! Now, I really enjoy Ladder Creek Falls. It’s one of my grandkids’ favorite spots. I also love the Chicken Dinner. I’ve been here 30 years and I could never get tired of eating it!”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Desmond Chan

Transmission System Planner Desmond Chan has worked at City Light for 27 years. “Time flies,” Desmond exclaimed. “I began as an engineering aide in vegetation management. I did that for a year before taking the Civil Service Exam to become an Electrical Engineering Specialist. After that, I was offered two jobs; I could either be an inspector or a mapper. I chose the mapping route because I knew I would like to further my studies with that work schedule.”

And further his studies he did. Desmond completed his electrical engineering degree at the University of Washington (UW), while working full-time at the utility. Desmond didn’t stop there as he continued his studies at UW, earning a master’s degree.

Originally from Hong Kong, Desmond has lived in the Northwest for 30 years. “I still remember the day I came here,” Desmond shared. “It was December 3, 1988 which was a particularly foggy day in Seattle, “It was so foggy that they re-routed us to San Francisco, which became my first port of entry. My parents were waiting all day at SeaTac for me. I ended up showing up much later—I’ll never forget it.”

Desmond lives on Mercer Island with his wife of nearly 30 years, Fung (a fellow City Light employee). They have two children, Rachel and Austin. In this week’s (spot)Light, Desmond shares what he loves about the utility.

Desmond and Fung at Mount Evans Colorado

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked to explore and fix stuff. I also like electronics, hi fi audio and enjoy working on computers. It’s fun to help my friends with their computers; I see it as a means for socializing. I also like camping with my family. We like to go razor clam digging at Ocean Shores.”

“In Hong Kong, I worked in construction as a Quantity Surveyor. I didn’t like it, so I moved to the United States to pursue another career. Seattle is the first city I stayed in after moving here. It’s my American dream. I got into this field because I was looking for a challenge and electrical engineering fit the bill. I was always good in math and engineering seemed like a logical career path.”

“Being a System planner is a continuous effort; it’s more than just a single project. We have many different tasks. Our system is interconnected throughout the West Coast, so we need to study it continuously. Whatever happens to us also affects our neighbors.”

“I really like the people at City Light. We spend a lot of time at work, more so than what we do at home. Life isn’t about making money; it’s about relationships and enjoying how you spend your time. At City Light, we take care of each other. When my father passed away 20 years ago, my director approved time-off, so my colleagues could be at the service. They all carpooled together and showed up in support of my family. The same thing happened when my mom passed away. Even when I moved from Federal Way to Mercer Island, my colleagues were there. They showed up to help me; they knew how frantic I was. Those moments meant a lot to me. I’m part of a family which makes me feel really good about working here.”



Seattle City (spot)Light: Elias Gebreslasie

Electrical Engineer Elias Gebreslasie has been at City Light since 1999. As part of the Energy Delivery Engineering division, Elias is part of the Network Services group where he works on the front line with City Light customers. “I work with customers who apply for power,” Elias explained. “Whenever someone wants to build a new house or apartment building, they must work with us to determine the amount of electricity that’s needed for the project. We design and install the transformers that distribute power for our customers.”

Elias was born in northeastern Africa, but has lived in Seattle for 27 years. He attended the University of Washington and received a degree in Electrical Engineering. “I was planning to study medical, but the language barrier was very challenging,” Elias shared. “I was always good in math and physics so decided to study electrical engineering. I also knew that there was a wide chance of job opportunity in this field.”

Elias lives in Lynnwood with his wife Elsa and his three boys Mossa, Zekhri and Sham. In this week’s (spot)Light, Elias talks about his journey to the U.S. and shares about his role here at the utility.

Elias (top left) with his family in Dubai

“I’m from Eritrea in northeastern Africa. There was a 30-year war between Ethiopia and Eritrea and I fought against the communist regime. Because of my political views, I was imprisoned and was forced to escape. I ended up in Sudan and through a refugee program was able to come to the United States. Seattle was my port of city and I’ve been here since 1991.”

“One attribute of the Northwest that I really like is the cooler weather. I come from a very hot region, so the rain and cooler environment is something I enjoy. The landscaping here is beautiful. It’s a good place to live with a lot of activities. I like to go target shooting near Woodinville. I play soccer with my sons. I also go running four days a week—it doesn’t matter if it’s raining. I make sure to get out there. I also like to cook. My specialty is an Eritrean dish Zigni. It’s spicy!”

“I’m a family-oriented person which is one of the reasons I like working at City Light. It offers a nice work-life balance and stability for my family. It has a good working environment. I refer to my work group as brothers, like part of my family. It’s a good group with strong friendships. There is also diversity. I have a different background and culture as do many others here. It’s nice to connect with others in that regard. I really enjoy working with the people here.”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Ellen Javines

Ellen Javines has worked at City Light for 29 ½ years and has held administrative roles in Customer Energy Solutions and Power Supply. Currently, she is the Administrative Specialist III for the Customer Service, Communications & Regulatory Affairs business unit and is a board member of the Filipino American Civic Employees of Seattle (FACES).

Born in Olongapo, Philippines, Ellen has seen much of the world through her step-father’s service in the United States Navy. “I’m a navy child, not a navy brat,” Ellen said jokingly. “We traveled a lot, living in places like Hawaii and Maine, but stayed in San Diego when my dad got out of the navy. I also remember visiting Louisiana which was interesting because I was exposed to Mardi Gras as a young kid!”

Ellen lives in Auburn and has four daughters and two grandchildren. In this week’s (spot)Light, she talks about her life adventures and interests.

Ellen with her boyfriend Ken.

“Originally, I studied nursing. I was enrolled in a RN program while having my Medical Assistant Certification. I figured I could transfer my credits when I moved. That wasn’t the case.  At the time, the wait list for the UW nursing program was three years. I couldn’t wait that long and pursued another career path. I interviewed at City Light within a week of moving here and was hired soon after. I really like the conservation concept of the utility. Teaching people how to save energy and sharing how energy works.”

“My parents were travelers. They wanted us to experience the sights of America. I remember having an RV hooked up to our car. The Grand Canyon was one of my favorite places we visited. I also enjoyed the bayous of Louisiana. That was interesting! Scary, but interesting. That’s when I realized that I don’t like bugs or biting fish!”

“I love the people in this area. I also love the trees! I never realized how much I loved the mountains, camping and the outdoors until I moved here. I always thought I was a city person! Turns out, I enjoy nature and exploring Washington state. I hike a lot, but I don’t consider myself an extreme hiker. I also knit and crochet. Right now, I’m knitting a lacy shawl that I plan to submit to the Washington Fair. I have fun teaching people how to knit. I’ve always told my daughters that even though we can buy pre-made clothing, it’s always special to make something. To know that you have that skill to rely on.”

“When I first arrived in Seattle, it reminded me of San Francisco. I also experienced snow which initially freaked me out. I was impressed with the diversity of people. I enjoy meeting new people and have no problem introducing myself and learning about others. My mom always said that the United States is a melting pot of people from all over the world and that we were among them. That it was important to learn from all cultures and respect them as we are all the same—we are all humans.”