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A Golden Anniversary

0501
 2020


Herbert Pampell has worked longer for Bluebonnet than any employee. (Sarah Beal photo)

By Melissa Segrest

A lot happened in America in 1969. Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon. Richard Nixon became president. Hurricane Camille killed 143 people on the Gulf Coast. The Woodstock music festival in New York attracted about 400,000 people.

And, on Oct. 6, 1969, 24-year-old Herbert Pampell started working at the Lower Colorado River Electric Cooperative in Giddings. Today, that cooperative is called Bluebonnet, and Pampell is still hard at work.

No other employee has worked as long at Bluebonnet — more than 50 years.

Pampell first earned $2.05 an hour as a laborer or so-called “grunt,” he said. He worked behind the cooperative’s single digger truck, helping make holes for new power poles. “We worked hard,” he said. “We would (put in) 10 to 12 poles a day. By 5p.m., the job was through. We didn’t mess around.”

He then was a lineman for more than 18 years. “We could go up and down a pole in 7 minutes and have it tied in,” Pampell said.

He’s been a district foreman, district supervisor, construction superintendent, control center operator and now is an inspector of contractors. He still works in Giddings.

Pampell’s most vivid memories are wicked weather and big power outages. In 1983, 18-degree temperatures iced and snapped miles of power lines, causing thousands of electric outages, some lasting more than a week. “I worked a solid week,” he said. “Never made it home. We were living off Coke, potato chips and coffee. But nobody got hurt, nobody had a wreck. Everybody worked together.”

Pampell was born in Houston and raised in Lee County, where he and wife Katherine — they married in 1975 — live on 10 acres. They have three children, Nick, Scott and Heather, and Gina is his daughter from a previous marriage. He has a grandson and two great-grandchildren.

In his free time, Pampell works around the property or runs a few head of cattle nearby with his brother. He enjoys bass fishing and traveling with Katherine to Branson, Mo. He is most happy when spending time with his children and their families. He loves John Wayne Westerns and is proud of a pair of vintage guns.

He was recently recognized by members of the Bluebonnet Board of Directors, and at an all-employee event, General Manager Matt Bentke presented Pampell with a pair of Lucchese boots with the logo “50 Years of Service” etched into the leather, plus some of his favorite type of caps bearing that logo, his name and start date.

These days, working at the same job for more than a couple of years may seem strange to some. Not to Pampell. “I just enjoy the work. I like the people I work with. It’s a good company to work for,” Pampell said. “I keep working because it’s good for me. It keeps my mind sharp.”

His advice to new line workers: Ask stupid questions, because that’s the only way you’re going to learn. Pay attention to what’s going on around you and watch your brother. Protect one another.

If Pampell ever retires, he would like people to remember this: “We worked hard to keep the lights on. We still do.”
 

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