Two Icons Retire From Lane Electric

Pair leaves with combined 53 years of experience at the co-op and 76 years in the field

Many years of electric cooperative experience walked out of the Lane Electric Cooperative office last month and into retirement.

Wayne Schvaneveldt, 57, bowed out January 8. Dave Davanzo, 62, followed January 31. Both had 38-year careers in the electric cooperative industry.

Wayne spent all of his career with Lane Electric, working the past 21 years as a serviceman for the Cottage Grove, Row River and Upper McKenzie areas.

Dave worked for four electric co-ops. He has been the member services manager for Lane Electric for the past 15 years. “I’ll definitely miss it,” says Wayne.

“I’ll miss it very much. It’s been a great career and I would definitely work here again. The best part of my job was talking with the members, especially the older ones who know the electric cooperative history.”

Dave expresses similar feelings. “It’s been a wonderful career,” he says. “It’s a people-based business that has provided relationships with the members, with co-workers and with many others in the industry. The co-op is not privately owned, so we’ve gotten to be part of the community through interviews, attending different meetings, sitting on community boards and being involved in school events.”

Dave D’Avanzo is a big Elvis fan and kept a large collection of memorabilia in his office. Photo by Mike Teegarden

Tony Toncray, the co-op’s manager of engineering operations, has worked with both Dave and Wayne for many years.

“Wayne has been a cornerstone and a face of Lane Electric,” Tony says. “He’s been solid in his work and in representing Lane Electric. I know he has thoroughly enjoyed his interactions with our members, and I’m sure he’ll miss that.

“Dave is an awesome guy who is well respected in the entire industry. He’ll be missed.”

Wayne, a 1978 Bandon High School graduate, started working for Lane Electric part-time while attending Lane Community College. He earned a degree in diesel mechanics and was hired full time by the cooperative in 1981. He worked at the home facility until 1984 when he became a groundman equipment operator.

“My goal was to become an apprentice lineman and then a journeyman lineman,” Wayne says.

He earned the apprenticeship position in 1986 and began the three-year on-the-job training program, earning journeyman status in 1989. For the next eight years, he worked on a crew, setting poles and maintaining the lines.

In 1997, he became a oneman crew, working as a line serviceman. He had his own service vehicle and on a 24/7 basis was the first responder for any electrical issues in his service territory. Those issues included power outages, voltage problems, connects and disconnects, and underground locates.

“I think I speak for all the linemen when I say storms are always a challenge,” Wayne says. “When you work a 12- to 16-hour day for seven or eight days in a row, you know it is all about getting the power back on for the members.”

Wayne says that in his career, the longest outage in an area he was involved with was 12 to 13 days. His longest stretch of work without a day off was 13 days.

“It can be hard work and it can be challenging, but you know the majority of people very much appreciate everything we do out there,” he says. “People often stop in their vehicles, roll down the window and say thank you. People are always offering coffee, cookies, snacks, even when homes have no power.”

Wayne says during those long hours of work following wind, ice and snow storms, the linemen make it a point to look out for each other to make sure everybody remains safe while on the job. Tony says Wayne had an impeccable safety record during his years of work for the co-op.

“You face many challenges as a first responder,” Tony says. “Wayne has been stellar in his decision-making throughout each situation. You never had to worry about Wayne being out there in regards to safety.”

While Wayne spent most of his co-op years in the field, Dave spent his career working from an office. A graduate of Hermiston High School in 1973 and then of Eastern Oregon University in La Grande in 1977, Dave started his co-op career in 1980 when he was hired as a drafts person by Umatilla Electric Cooperative in Hermiston. He spent 10 years there and was soon doing energy audits, public relations, writing for Ruralite magazine and participating in community service.

To move up to a manager position, in 1990 he moved across the country and became the member services manager at Claverack Rural Electric Cooperative in northeastern Pennsylvania. But he was there only for a year because Bill Kopacz, whom he knew from Umatilla, became the general manager at Midstate Electric Cooperative in La Pine and offered Dave the job of member services manager at Midstate.

Dave accepted and worked in central Oregon until 1999, when he worked a few years as a distributor for a new piece of heating and cooling equipment that was being developed and introduced to the electrical industry. Dave returned to electric cooperatives in 2002 when he was hired as manager of member services for Lane Electric.

“We’ve gotten some fun things done, some changes done to our systems,” Dave says of the past 15 years at Lane.

He was the project leader for the introduction of the original automated meter reading system for the co-op.

“We’ve upgraded our processes, our procedures, we’ve really enhanced our community service involvement,” he says. “Our goal was that the communities we serviced understood we were their company. We wanted people to know it is a member- based, a person-based co-op and not just another business down the street.”

John Murray, energy services representative at Lane Electric, says Dave built his legacy at the co-op on hard work, determination and caring for others.

“If there was ever a need among our members, our community or from the employees, he was there for all of us,” John says. “He was always helping in any way possible and finding solutions in tough situations with compassion and sensitivity. His positive attitude and true character will truly be missed by everyone.”

Of his decision to retire, Dave explains that the time is right to spend more time at home and more time doing new things. He says announcing his retirement was bitter sweet.

“It’s a new beginning,” he says. “I’m not sure what lies ahead, kind of like my first day at Umatilla Electric on June 16, 1980. I wasn’t sure what was in store for me then, but I was pretty sure it was going to be OK, and it was thanks to countless friends, partners and counterparts.”