When the power goes out, minutes can feel like hours. Not only is it inconvenient, but lives can depend on safe, timely restoration. As a Line Supervisor with FirstEnergy Corp., Cuyahoga Falls native Eric Leonard knows you’re counting on him. “No one can put the power back on but us,” he says. Leonard now resides in Tallmadge with his wife, Stephanie, and their three kids, Justin, Josey and Jake.
How does Ohio’s crazy weather affect your job?
EL: For the most part, it’s nice, but we do have a weather clause. Ten degrees and below, we only work emergencies. When we had the polar vortex a couple years ago, we sent extra personnel to ride along with the trouble shooters so the guys weren’t out there by themselves. When it’s cold like that, they can rotate in and out of the truck, just so they don’t have any of those safety concerns you get when it’s cold and you’re not thinking right.
What is the most satisfying part about your job?
EL: Restoring customers. It feels good to put our heads together and figure out how we can get the lights back on. A lot of these places where we restore power, people have wells, so they may not have water. These are necessities people don’t realize you lose when you lose power.
What’s a challenging aspect of your job?
EL: The most difficult part is leaving your family. When you’re needed to restore service, it’s not planned. Your phone rings, and if you’re going out of town to perform mutual assistance, you could be gone for two weeks. You miss a few holidays and anniversaries and birthdays, but it comes with the territory.
What’s a situation you encountered that was memorable for you?
EL: The plane crash on Mogadore Road last year. We were some of the first people on the scene because it took the wires down and knocked the circuit out. The plane went into an apartment building, [and] residents were walking around; they didn’t know if they had lost loved ones or not. It was extremely difficult [at] that scene, knowing the plane had crashed and people had lost their lives. It was very difficult to stay on task. And all the other agencies working there—the people doing the investigations, the fire department—it was a very dark scene. I hope I never have to experience that again.
Is it difficult for you to leave the job at work?
EL: No it’s not. On my way home I turn into Dad Mode. I try to spend as much time as I can with my kids when I’m not at work because I’m gone so much. We work a lot of overtime, so I try and be there for my kids as much as I can.
How do you make that transition?
EL: I stop talking as soon as I get in my car. I don’t answer my phone anymore unless it’s absolutely necessary. It’s easy to get in the habit of talking to a thousand people about a lot of different issues, [so] I turn it off on the way home, and I don’t talk about work at home with my family.
What do you love to do with your kids?
EL: My daughter’s in gymnastics on a competitive team; she practices four days a week for three hours a day. And my boys play basketball, football and a little soccer, so I spend a lot of my time hanging out at the basketball courts or the youth field.
What do you and Stephanie do for a date night?
EL: No, there’s no date night. Unfortunately, my wife works as well, but we don’t get babysitters. Our dates are [running]. She loves to run and I run as well, so anytime we get a spare moment and someone will watch the kids, we go for a six-mile run and catch up that way.
What are some of your favorite things to do in The 330?
EL: I did the half marathon this year, and [Stephanie’s] done the full for about nine years in a row. It was quite an experience, being downtown with that many people lined up at the start line. The Circle Fest in Tallmadge—they’ve been doing that for three or four years now, we always attend that. And we love to go to the many amazing restaurants in the area.