The audience at NETA’s PowerTest Awards Luncheon didn’t need a reminder that someone special was missing, but Ron Widup, Vice Chairman, Board of Directors and Senior Advisor, Technical Services at Shermco Industries, didn’t miss his chance to honor the recipient of a 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award.
“NETA and the electrical testing industry recently lost another giant whose influence across the industry and the love and respect he enjoyed from employees and friends point to a man with rare talents,” Widup began. “With volunteer members assisting in all aspects of our organization, there is one man who truly led the charge for technical excellence and relevance. That man is Alan Peterson of Utility Service Corporation — a true visionary and leader.”
“NETA has a long history of leadership and volunteer contributors who have made the association what it is today, and at the top of that list is Al Peterson,” Widup continued. “As chair of the Standards Review Council, Al was instrumental in the development, navigation, and ultimate publishing of NETA’s first ANSI standard, the 2000 Electrical Test Technician (ETT) standard. This started our journey into standards writing and forever changed NETA into a serious contributor to our industry. I was President of the Association at the time ETT was first published and was fortunate to announce the standard and recognize Al for his work. He was proud of it, and we were proud of him.”
Dr. Mary R. Jordan, NETA Executive Director from 1982 to 2006, was unable to attend the award ceremony but sent a letter. “It’s often said, so truthfully, that Alan Peterson was a technical giant of the electrical testing industry,” she shared. “Although NETA has always been a team effort, the Association is the highly respected, technically recognized entity it is today largely because of Al’s talent, dedication, and consistent hard work. He donated his time, talent, and expertise for the good of the industry to the great benefit of all.”
A NETA LEGACY
Eric Beckman, NETA President and Vice President of Engineering at National Field Services, says,“Al was such a highly respected person in the industry. I didn’t get the opportunity to know Al as well as some board members, but I could tell how much respect and knowledge he had in the industry just by the way people would talk about him. Al did so much for NETA and the electrical testing world. There’s no doubt that NETA has gained so much recognition and respect because of the work Al put in over the course of his career. I would say Al has done more for the electrical testing industry than maybe anybody.”
“Al led the Association from a group of like-minded individuals who wanted to make a difference to a professional standards-making organization that truly leads the electrical power system safety and reliability space,” Widup agrees. “NETA President, a member of the Board of Directors, Chair of the Standards Review Council, and a representative on industry codes and standards committees, Al was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. He was a special person and one of the most influential contributors to NETA’s success.”
“In the NETA tradition, Al worked hard and played hard — and often combined the two,” Jordan remembers. “We met for hundreds of hours examining NETA specifications line by line and comparing them to existing ANSI standards to confirm not only accuracy but also the necessary writing and presentation style.”
The late Charles K. Blizard Sr., a good friend and colleague for over 40 years, recognized Al’s achievements following the 2008 NETA Outstanding Achievement Award. “We worked together well on NETA’s Standard Review Committee because our perspective from the practical aspects of testing provided a balance to the electrical theorists on the committee,” Blizard says. “Al was really the one who was persistent with getting NETA involved with ANSI. He was the prime mover, and he promulgated our cause through his tact.”
“As chair of the NETA Technical Committee, later renamed the Standards Review Council, Al led the Association to worldwide technical respectability,” remembers Jordan. “He dedicated countless hours to actual SRC meetings and personally wrote most of the high-voltage sections of the specifications, which are now American National Standards. Al was the major proponent of NETA’s earning the prestigious designation as a developer of ANSI standards.”
Scott Blizard, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at American Electrical Testing Company, says, “He led us. He’s the one who helped us get where we are today with all of our standards. You can just thank Al Peterson for that. Al was NETA’s guru in the area of dealing with other professional associations like NFPA and IEEE. It was important to NETA to be able to interface with these other standard writing organizations, and Al developed both the contacts and the knowledge to guide NETA in the correct direction when dealing with them. Al is a man who will not be forgotten. His work at NETA will live on, and his legacy among our ANSI standards will be present forever.”
MENTORSHIP AND CHARISMA
“We lost a good one when we lost Al Peterson, but fortunately his work and legacy will continue to make NETA a great technical trade association and difference-maker for our industry,” says Widup. “He will be greatly missed, but his mentorship, charisma, and laugh will never be forgotten by those who knew him.”
Eric Beckman, NETA President and Director at National Field Services, says, “Al always had a way of making the conversation interesting. I loved hearing his testing war stories and the interesting outcomes of various projects.”
“Al Peterson was a family friend as well as a mentor to a young man from Boston,” remembers Blizard, who served with Al on several NETA committees. “He possessed an amazing amount of knowledge and a memory to match, and he shared it with all who would listen. NETA is a much better organization today thanks to Al’s involvement.”
Huffmansays, “Al Peterson inspired me to look past the superficial words of a standard and dive deep into how it would impact the industry.”
Jordan counts Al and Shirley Peterson among her dearest friends. “They were accepting, caring, and always kind,” she says. “We created beautiful memories together — scouting for remnants of undersea, high-voltage cables after a meeting at The Cape, enjoying the Tasting Menu at Emeril’s in New Orleans, whale watching in Key West, savoring crab cakes and lobster, toasting sunsets in Cabo, eating wild game in White Fish, Montana — and always laughter, laughter, laughter!”
“Al was always engaging and never short on stories on just about everything, and he was a phenomenal encyclopedia of information,” recalls Widup. “It always amazed me how Al knew so much about so much… and his presentation skills were like no other. Especially when there was an element of humor in his stories — and there often was — his deep belly laugh and verbose delivery would turn heads from all around the room!”
Kristen Schmidt, former NETA technical services director, now a training specialist at RESA Power, remembers, “Al was someone you just couldn’t get enough of. His toothy smile, booming voice, and unmistakable laughter filled every room he occupied and made everyone want to be in on the joke. Al’s generosity of spirit always made you feel like you were capable of anything because, by gum, he believed in you. And if a man as accomplished and well-traveled as Al Peterson knew it to be true, then it must be so.”
“Al was known as a military historian,” says White. “He was your guy if you wanted to know anything about military history. He could quote military personalities from all the various wars in which the U.S. has been involved and discuss a certain U.S. general’s strategy down to minute detail.”
Sheppard says Peterson was quite the character, and his reputation spoke for itself. “When you talked to Al, you became so intrigued and involved that sometimes you didn’t know until the end whether it was a real thing or something he had just made up,” Sheppard recalls. “Al was one of those people who could tell you the type of material right down to the wood and the type of spray phenolic that was put on an insulating barrier from a 1932 General Electric switchboard, and he could convince you with compassion and intelligence that he was there when it was put on.”
Cialdea remembers, “I always enjoyed listening to Al’s stories. He did a lot of stuff with NASA, and he told us stories about some crazy stuff he found. We all love a good story.”
“His fingerprints are all over this community and this association,” Tedderpoints out.
“Al had a presence that was like no other,” Widup says. “He was smart. He was articulate. He was fun. All of those things benefited the Association so much, and we’re so grateful for what Al did for NETA throughout the years. He was truly one of the industry icons and a great guy. We all miss him.”
MEET ALAN “AL” PETERSON
Established by Alan and Shirley Peterson in 1963, Utility Service Corporation (USC) specialized in electric power system testing and maintenance for over 50 years, working in utility, industrial, and commercial power applications, troubleshooting, and repair. As a team, they created legacies and established a high caliber of excellence in the industry.
Utility Service Corporation became a NETA Accredited Company in 1983, and Peterson served on the NETA Board of Directors from 1984 until his death, holding the offices of president, first vice president, and second vice president. He served on several NETA committees, was the Technical Committee chair and a member of the Standards Review Council until his death, and was instrumental in the writing and acceptance of NETA’s Acceptance and Maintenance Specifications as national standards.
In addition to serving on the National Board of Directors of AIECA, now Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), where he held the offices of national vice president and national treasurer, Al was a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and served three terms as a member of the ANSI Board of Standards Review (BSR). Before his appointment to the BSR, he served on ANSI’s Electrical and Electronic Standards Board.
Al represented NETA as a member of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) High Voltage Task Force, which was formed in 2008 for the purpose of adding provisions covering high- and medium-voltage installations to the National Electrical Code (NEC) for 2011. This task force was extended to address changes and additions to the NEC for 2014 and 2017.
As a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), Peterson participated on various IEEE Technical Committee working groups, specifically ANSI/IEEE C-37, Power Switchgear, ANSI/IEEE C-57, Transformers, and ANSI/IEEE C-62 Surge Protection.
Peterson received his formal education in electrical engineering at Northeastern University in Boston and completed various advanced studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was first employed by Brockton Edison Company (now National Grid) through Northeastern University’s Cooperative Program working in the meter, line, and engineering departments. Peterson was inducted into the U.S. Army and served his entire term of service as an instructor at the U.S. Army Ordnance Guided Missile School at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. He held Journeyman and Master Electrician certificates in several states.