John Winther, a Minnesota transplant, counts a bit over 31 years of service on his retirement from Laclede Electric Co-Operative of Lebanon.  
Arriving at the Co-op’s training program in 1986, Winther became known as “Mr. Hard Work Ethic” by his co-workers and received a series of promotions, including being made crew foreman in 2015.
Winther said in his three decades, he’s observed incredible changes in the industry, especially in the safety equipment and on the job working environment.
“We have so much equipment today that allows us to more quickly resolve power outages for our members.   Putting in new poles once required hand tamping around the base of the pole.  Now we use a hydraulic system—it saves your arms; saves your rotator cuff”
“We didn’t have a single bucket truck when I started.  We had to climb the pole to attach the wire up, climb again to tie it in, climb back to set the transformers.  I never dreamed we’d have three bucket trucks to speed up getting the lights back on.”
Winther’s duties weren’t all mapped out in a book.  On one occasion, a car had collided with a utility pole but appeared to be undamaged.  
“We went back one more span to open the line.  When the line was cut, the pole snapped and fell over with a hot wire connection.”  
John credits the Co-op’s safety training with allowing his crew to return home safely that day.
In 2016, John volunteered to donate his vacation time toward a remarkable electric power project in the mountains of Bolivia.  Winther accompanied a 15-man crew to set poles and string electric wire to two Bolivian communities, El Torito and Dos de Junio.  Winther recalled the men dipped into their own wallets to complete that last mile of the project.
John and Betty Winther’s next chapter includes a motor home and a map of the southern United States.  “Wife and I bought a book on the most scenic day trips in America 25 years ago when we got married.  We’ve been on two.  
That’s gonna change!”
John says if the Kansas City Chiefs are in the Super Bowl, especially if they face off against his home state Vikings, a trip north in February will be included in their itinerary.