Jim White Safety Award — Ron Widup: Taking the Initiative

NETA World StaffNETA News, Summer 2024 NETA News

Congratulations Ron Widup on receiving the 2024 James. R. White Safety Award, presented by Vickie White and Scott Blizard, NETA Safety Chair.

“The James R. White Electrical Safety Award is given to honor Jim White’s legacy,” began NETA Board Member Scott Blizard, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Asplundh Electrical Testing. “Jim dedicated his career to promoting electrical safety, so individuals receiving the James R. White Safety Award must be committed to promoting electrical safety within their organization and across the industry. They are recognized advocates for safety education and standards development, and they provide invaluable support to NETA in achieving its mission to continually advance electrical systems safety and reliability.”

“Jim White talked about this year’s honoree before he passed,” Blizard continued. “Jim noted that Ron had a real concern for safety and the workers and was always upfront about it. Today, we are honored to have Jim’s wife, Vickie, here to present the award to Ron Widup.”

“It’s very humbling and a great honor, especially since NETA chose to name the award in Jim White’s honor,” Widup says. “During the many years Jim and I co-authored the “70E & NETA” column, Jim always had good input, and we were both involved in numerous projects, including investigating incidents, which cumulated into a great partnership between us — we made a good team!”

Widup acknowledges that the success he’s enjoyed and the safety advancements he’s championed are the result of the people who inspired and mentored him during his career. “You should always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you,” he says. “But when I look back and think about it, the people who really made a difference for me all fit the same criteria: They took a chance on me, and they all had trust in me. Trust is important, and you should covet it and work hard to keep it, regardless of the curve balls life throws you.”

Bill Mohl, Shermco Industries Board Chair, says, “As the former CEO and current Vice Chairman of the company, Ron brings over 40 years of invaluable experience in the electrical field service industry and is clearly considered a subject matter expert in regards to safety. He brings a unique perspective on the importance of safety because he understands the inherent risks and hazards associated with electrical work firsthand. He has personally experienced significant safety events throughout his career and recognizes that safety isn’t just a priority — it’s a non-negotiable aspect of operations that directly impacts the well-being of employees and the success of the business. Ron sincerely cares about the employees and understands the importance of proper training, equipment maintenance, and adherence to safety regulations to mitigate risks and ensure a safe working environment for everyone.”

Widup began his career as a field service technician for Shermco’s Engineering Services Division (the NETA part of the business) in 1983. “I worked my way up to CEO and added the responsibility for the Machine Services Division around 2002,” he says. “I’ve stepped down from day-to-day operations, but still serve as Vice-Chair of the Shermco Board and represent the company in the industry, including NFPA 790/791 (chair), NFPA 70E, NFPA 70B, and NEC CMP-11, and IEEE 902.” 

NETA involvement remains a big part of his day-to-day responsibilities. A two-term NETA President, serving from 1998-2000 and 2015-2017, Widup credits NETA with his industry successes, highlighting that involvement with NETA and other aspects of industry had become his post-tech-school learning and education resource. He currently serves on the NETA Board of Directors and the NETA Standards Review Council. “I chair the PowerTest Conference Committee and the Technical Resource Steering Committee and am a member of the Member Review Committee and Exam Committee,” he says. “I am also a member of the Board of Regents for Texas State Technical College. I’m a State of Texas Journeyman Electrician, a NETA Level 4 Technician, and hold a CESCP certification from NFPA.”

“Ron’s most valuable contribution to NETA is Ron himself,” says Blizard. “He is a smart, caring individual with great ideas and many quality characteristics…helpful, compassionate, dedicated, and generous. NETA wouldn’t be where it is without his participation.”

Three Generations of Widups Enjoying Their Central Texas Ranch

Widup’s dedication to safety comes from personal experience. In 1984, he was injured in an arc flash event while working on an automatic transfer switch.  He spent over a week in the burn unit at the hospital and another month recovering at home. After that, safety became the focus of his career, and his injury was the catalyst to get involved with electrical safety and NFPA 70E. Widup credits NETA with many of his successes and grins when he says the Association has been his post-tech-school learning institution.

Mohl points out, “Regardless of Ron’s role with the company or the broader industry, he has consistently reinforced a culture where safety is prioritized at every level, from the field to the boardroom. “His insights, thoughts, guidance, and leadership have been critical in our journey as a company that has always strived for an impeccable safety record, working to foster trust among stakeholders and securing the company’s reputation as an industry leader committed to excellence in safety standards. Ron is well respected because he lives and believes in safety leadership; he knows there is nothing more important than ensuring the safety of every employee. Every task. Every time. This award is well deserved, and we sincerely appreciate all Ron does for our company and the entire industry.”

Widup credits his success to “a lot of things, starting with a basic work ethic impressed upon me early on by my mom and dad. I never aspired to be CEO of the company. I just came to work every day, looked around, and when something needed to be done, I would help do it. I tell my boys the same thing. Don’t wait for someone to ask; ask what else needs to be done even after you have already done something extra that they didn’t ask you to do. I believe in the old adage: The harder you work, the luckier you are.”

There are always normal business challenges, especially when you are in a management position,” he adds. “We are in a people business, and we work with all manner of people…but if you do so with a focus on safety, care, and compassion, it’s a pretty simple formula for success that ultimately leads to fewer challenges.”

Widup’s advice for upcoming professionals: “Take the initiative! Don’t wait for your boss to ask you, do it before they ask. People in management are always busy and always dealing with challenges. As you do more to make the company run smoother, your boss will look better, the people around you will have a better day at work, and ultimately, it will be better for you.” 

He adds, “Don’t be afraid to step out and try something new for the company and your career. Push yourself to do more, learn more; be a better employee and a more educated person. Don’t wait for it to come along — reach out and grab it! I did that in 1998 by getting involved with NFPA 70E. I wanted to learn more about electrical safety and try to keep people from getting hurt at work. I didn’t know much about it, but I stepped out there and learned. That’s how it works. You know, the harder you work, the luckier you are!”

And most importantly, he says. “That electrical stuff you are working on — turn it off! And test before touch!”