Then: Ray Burns was a kid who had to hide his long hair in his first interview.
Now: He’s retiring as a leader at Noble REMC, with 23 years under his belt.
Burns, right-of-way foreman, hung up his chainsaw at the end of December after more than two decades of helping to keep our members’ power on by maintaining clearance around lines and managing vegetation around poles.
It’s one of the most important jobs at the co-op that unfortunately doesn’t get a lot of the limelight.
But that was OK with Burns, whose goal was just to do the best job he could and earn his paycheck each week.
“It’s hard work. I don’t know what people think, but it’s hard work,” Burns said. “I was just here to do my little piece. It’s all I wanted to do.”
Burns has worked with trees all of his life, starting at home where he cut and burned wood, to his summer job at age 16 working with a local tree service to make money to go on dates.
The only time he wasn’t doing tree work was his time served in the U.S. Army, which he joined at age 18, but after his five years of service, he continued cutting trees on the side while he did other jobs.
That is until he became a full-time tree trimmer at Noble REMC in 1999.
“A lot of people say tree work is unskilled labor, but it’s not. You have to know how to look at a tree and figure out how to disassemble the tree and do it safely,” Burns said. “Then you’ve got to be half crazy to do this job, because who wants to be up in the air with a chainsaw in one hand and a limb in the other hand, and then work around power lines on top of it?”
But Burns did more than just his day-to-day job. He was involved in different committees at the co-op that give back to the community, including our Operation Round Up board and Charitable Giving committee. He also helped to organize our float in each year’s Christmas in the Village Parade. Have you seen all of the lights and decorations on our bucket truck as it’s paraded through Albion? That was Burns.
He wouldn’t tell you all of that, but he’s left big shoes to fill. Instead, he’ll tell you that Noble REMC provided him with a good life, and he hopes that he did what he was hired to do.
“I think I’ve deserved the paychecks that I’ve worked for.”