Lifetime Achievement Award — Lyle Detterman: High Expectations

NETA World StaffNETA News, Summer 2024 NETA News

Congratulations Lyle Detterman on receiving the NETA Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Ken Bassett, on behalf of the NETA Board of Directors.

NETA’s Lifetime Achievement Award is given to individuals who have demonstrated a high level of commitment to supporting the NETA organization and its programs throughout their careers. They have a history of contributing to the advancement of the electrical power industry through their activities involving standards and codes development, education, product development, industry relationship building, and/or the promotion of safety and service quality. 

“Lyle Detterman fits those requirements perfectly,” said NETA Board Member Ken Bassett, President of Potomac Testing. Detterman was honored during the PowerTest24 Member and Alliance Recognition Luncheon in Dallas, Texas. 

Detterman, the retired owner and CEO of Northern Electrical Testing (NET) located in Detroit, was one of the original NETA members going back to the 1970s. Basset shared with NETA Members and Alliance Partners, “I first met Lyle in 1993 at a PowerTest event like this one. He had already been a NETA Board member and also served as Association President. I know, for me, he’s been an excellent partner serving on the application review committee since the late ‘90s.”

“Receiving this award was a big surprise,” Detterman says. “I feel genuinely appreciated and was honored to be recognized for my contributions to NETA and the industry. It was great to see that my contributions and those of many others have elevated NETA as the recognized source of the major industry standards. NETA’s ANSI/NETA standards for commissioning, acceptance testing, and maintenance are recognized within the electrical manufacturing industry and are considered similar in strength to the IEEE standards.”

“I think this PowerTest is absolutely incredible,” Detterman said as he received his award. “I was at the first conference — actually, every other conference NETA has had. At the first conference, our entire room was the size of this stage, and all eight members were in attendance. So to me, it’s a phenomenal pleasure to see how NETA and the conference have developed and to realize the impact of the many people who have dedicated their time to NETA over the years. Being involved with NETA required a lot of personal free time and effort. We would take week-long trips where we took our wives and kids along. It was both work and fun. I remember back to when kids were getting lost at the campsite where we were meeting. So I’d like to say thank you for the wonderful support I’ve received from NETA. Hopefully, we’ve been able to help a little bit from our perspective.”


Detterman started out working for DTE Energy in industrial marketing, dealing with heavy industrial clients. In 1974, he was hired by Harlan Electric, an electrical contractor that was one of the original companies organizing NETA in 1972. “I was just a tech in the field,” Detterman says, “ but I was promoted from field tech to the head of Harlan’s testing division when my boss, Jack Roberts, left Harlan.”

At that time, NETA had a loose framework; just eight companies formed the original Association; all were electrical contractors. Detterman represented Harlan at NETA during those years, and in 1976, got involved in writing the first NETA ATS specifications. He left Harlan in 1979 and started Northern Electrical Testing, an independent testing services company. Northern Electrical Testing became an associate NETA member in 1979 until the company met the requirement of being in business for two years. 

“When I got involved with NETA, Northern Electrical Testing was just a start-up company,” Detterman remembers. “We did not have a lot of money, and my wife and I often traveled in our van to NETA meetings, camping along the way. There are always financial challenges when you are starting a new company, but I felt participating in NETA was an investment in principle.”

“I was fortunate to have several great mentors in Pat Herbert, Leonard Frier, and John Moore, each in their major area of interest,” Detterman adds. “Pat was heavily involved with environmentally compatible transformer fluids, Leonard focused on short-circuit and overcurrent coordination studies and GSA facilities, and John was very helpful with specialty equipment design and calibration.”

“One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job was emergency service restoration — helping customers whose equipment failed and needed to get back on-line,” Detterman says. “Northern Electrical Testing had a reputation of working any hour, coming out in the middle of the night. As a result, many utilities would call NET to assist them in emergencies.”

“Northern Electric Testing was probably as pure a NETA company as you’ll find. They were a true field-testing organization,” says NETA Board Member John White, former President of Sigma Six Solutions, and now retiring from Shermco Industries. 

Detterman’s involvement with NETA led him to be elected president sometime in the ‘90s. “The most challenging aspect was generating consensus of the members for the future growth of NETA and the services that all members provide for their marketing and geographical area,” he remembers.

Early Days of SRC Work on the NETA ATS Specifications

“For me,” says NETA Board Member Ron Widup, Senior Advisor of Technical Services at Shermco Industries, “I was always impressed with Lyle’s high expectations of performance — whether it was from NETA staff and issues around the Association, or its members, or the manufacturers who provided electrical products — he expected competent results from all of them. As an engineer, he expected things to work as intended and as specified, and if they didn’t, he was never shy to speak up about it!” 

“He built a great NETA company in Michigan, and in large part, it was likely because he was not one to compromise,” Widup went on. “The impression I got from Lyle was, ‘If you can’t do it right, you shouldn’t do it.’ He was one of the NETA volunteers who advanced the Association, especially back in the early days.”

Northern Electrical Testing continued to grow and serve the industry over the years. It was sold in 2020 to Potomac Testing and still operates under the Potomac Testing name.


“The most enjoyable activity for me was helping with the early development of the testing specifications,” Detterman recalls. He first got involved with NETA in 1978 to assist with the standards. The original NETA ATS, Standard for Acceptance Testing Specification for Electrical Equipment and Systems recommended independent third-party testing. These specifications were developed to ensure there would be unbiased testing of new electrical equipment installations and to provide best practices for equipment and system testing. 

“I helped write the first NETA standard, working with Rod Hageman of Pritt Services, Pat Herbert of High Voltage Maintenance, Lenny Fryer of MET Electrical Testing, and a few others,” Detterman says. “The group would write up the specifications and my secretary would type and clean them up, organizing them into the format for specifications. The standard originally was a three-ring binder.”  The specifications have evolved from the practices of the NETA founders to their current status as national standards utilized by consulting engineers, project managers, and testing firms over at least three continents.


“One of my contributions to NETA was my work in the early development of technician certification tests,” Detterman says. “As the Association evolved over the years, it operated on the principle of independent third-party testing and created the NETA accreditation process, separating electrical testing services from construction services to improve system quality. This change was made to put better-qualified people in the job of acceptance testing. It created a path for electrical technicians to have specialized training and experience for technicians testing all the time versus those doing both testing and electrical construction work.”

“Lyle has been a mentor in providing leadership towards the value of NETA Certified Technicians,” Bassett agrees. “He believed that every site and every location should have a NETA Level 3 Technician or above to make sure that any services or work associated with Northern Electrical Testing were being provided at a very high level.”

“My guide for Northern Electrical Testing services was to always maintain the most qualified personnel in the industry and to provide the most thorough services,” Detterman remembers. “This approach generated new business from firms that had previously been using non-NETA testing companies, and it matured into nearly all firms in Southeast Michigan utilizing only NETA firms and certified testing personnel.”

Detterman says his biggest pleasure was the development of young engineers and technicians. One of Lyle’s engineers worked for Northern Electrical Testing for his entire career — 35 years. He had the pleasure of seeing others marry and have children. One employee came to work for Northern Electrical Testing right out of high school. He worked and earned his graduate and engineering degrees and continues to work for Potomac Testing today. 

Scott Jantz, a former NET employee recalls, “I have worked my entire career with Lyle as a NETA technician. NETA standards were very important to Lyle and to us in the field.”

Jeff Marchione, who was Operations Manager at Northern Electrical Testing, Inc. recalls, “Lyle cared about his company and his organization. It was his baby, and he cared about the people who were a part of it. Everyone worked hard to do the best job possible for the customer. He always wanted to do things right.”


Detterman feels his biggest contribution was in developing the requirements for the test reports that NETA introduced in the 2000s. He started working on reporting guidelines and systems in-house. “I laid out the framework and format of the data sheets at Northern Electrical Testing and suggested a workable multi-level security approach for the software. Megger, specifically Bruce Buxkemper, provided the software programming that became PowerDB, a leading standardized reporting program and now a Megger product.”

An Early Test Report Form

“The standardization of these test reports and database-driven project test forms improved efficiency,” Detterman says. “It made it possible for common information and data to be automatically generated, so information did not need to be re-entered.”

Former Northern Testing employee Sam Avery says, “NETA was the foundation for what Lyle was building on. He was very involved in the 1990s. He was NETA President and was always pushing to make sure NETA was first and foremost in the testing world. His work in developing test sheets and a standardized approach to test sheets, in general, gave rise to PowerDB. Lyle played a big role in what NETA is today.”

White concurs: “I would consider Lyle an engineer’s engineer. He’s a true believer in the mission and the vision that NETA has going forward.”

“For me, the greatest pleasure of being part of NETA was the comradery of the NETA members,” Detterman says. “It was amazing. You could always call people — even in the middle of the night — and get help from another company or help them out. I developed a technical working relationship in the early years with Pat Herbert. He was very cooperative and helpful in business issues and technical field service issues. These relationships with other senior members were most beneficial.”