Past Issues/Subscribe | Employment | | Legislative Update | Advertise January 2015

Historic Interview: Curtis Lanciani

Print Print this article | Send to Colleague

Our first interview to kick off the 50th Anniversary year of NEPPA is Curtis Lanciani, the retired General Manager of Littleton Electric Light Department in Littleton, Mass. 

After leaving high school Curt worked for his dad for about two years and after speaking with his neighbor, he joined the Sterling Light Department. Within six months at Sterling, Curtis became a First Class lineman. 

Four years later Curt came to the Paxton Light Department. There he joined the crew working along two other members, and after six months he became the foreman.  Before he knew it three years had passed and at the age of 25, Curt became the General Manager of Paxton. After a few years, Curt had gotten to know some of the other GMs and that was when they decided to form the Northeast Public Power Association. Curt stayed at Paxton until 1976 and was eventually hired by Littleton Electric as the General Manager until his retirement in 1993. 

In the June 1993 issue of PowerLines, there was an article written on his retirement that had some great insight into his career: he had served as the NEPPA President from 1975-1977 and was on the NEPPA Board of Directors; he received quite a few awards through NEPPA including the Big Heart Award in 1972, the NEPPA Distinguished Services Award in 1985 for his initiative in establishing and running the Operations Workshop, and was named Man of the Year at the Annual Conference in 1990. Curt was the reason NEPPA deployed 10 systems to help in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, and afterward was appointed chairman of an American Public Power Association committee to establish a national emergency aid program. As a result of all his hard work, he received APPA’s Community Service Award in 1992. Curt goes on to be quoted saying, "The most important thing in life is communication. My advice to others is to be a good listener." When asked to reflect on the past 50 years, Curt had these replies:

What was NEPPA’s greatest accomplishment in 50 years? It was to bring us together and work on power supply.

What was NEPPA’s most valuable program?  Power supply.

What did you see as NEPPA’S primary role?  To bring the municipals together and power supply, as well as education.

Did NEPPA meet those expectations?  Yes.

What do you see as NEPPA’s primary role in the future? As far as the local light departments, I would say training.

How did NEPPA help your utility?  You should reverse that to, "How did our utility help NEPPA?" You got a beautiful facility here that belongs to the town of Littleton.

How did NEPPA help you personally?  To a certain degree, all of us looked at it as a big family.

Are there programs you wished NEPPA would have offered? More quarterly meetings for GMs and more financial programs.

What do you think of the move to Littleton? Oh, I thought it was awesome.

If you were on the NEPPA Board today and could make one change, what would that be? I would poll the board and asks what we can give you that you need that would be beneficial to you.

If I used the word "visionary," what NEPPA employee or member comes to mind? Jim Baker. He was the GM at SELCO. He was as hard as nails and when he made up his own personal mind on something he just wouldn’t budge.

Do you feel NEPPA should play a major or minor role in Washington? I think there should be a connection between Washington and the public utilities.

How do you think the challenges today compare to the challenges that your generation faced? Specifically, how do the business models of the two periods compare? The departments are much more aware of what happens in the world today and they have the technology and the equipment to deal with it much better than we did 25-30 years ago.

What has been the biggest change in the industry over the past 50 years? Well, as far as the day-to-day stuff, the equipment that’s available whether it be in the line department or in any department, such as the office, has different ways on how they run their utility.

What about the biggest event? As the GM, I say that the growth of the utility and you’re really judged on the success of the utility by the rates. I don’t think you, as a customer, really care whether our trucks are yellow or white. All you’re interested in is when you get your light bill, how does it compare to the neighboring community?

What do you think is the biggest influence on the future of the industry right now? I have concerns personally about solar panels. When are we going to get to that saturation point?  Let’s say everyone in Littleton had their own solar panels. It would probably be so bad it would break the light department. And when something major happens such as a storm, what are you gonna do for power? I think it’s nice a lot of people are going solar; I’ve even thought about it myself. On the other hand, if there’s a total disconnect between you and the utility and something happens, what do you do? As a utility operator if you came to me after you had all your solar panels all put in and had a couple of months of "free electricity" and the lights went out and you didn’t have any service and it was a cold wintry day, and you called me up and said, "What can you do for me?" Well, I’m gonna say, "Well you gotta get to the end of the line." I don’t think it’s as beneficial as people are making it out to be.

How have the commissions changed over the last 50 years? Now, commissions are 5 men, I don’t think they are any 3 member commissions anymore. Were they better informed then or better informed now? That’s a tough question because that’s up to the guy. A lot of commissions, like Littleton, they go to the meeting once a month and they get to the meeting and they get through what they think is important. In most commissions they are insulated from the day to day.

Changes with the bucket trucks? Oh big time! I’m going to tell you that probably right now, 20 percent of the work force that’s out there now that are in buckets wouldn’t be climbing poles. Climbing poles is an art. You can tell the difference if you see a lineman and when he’s climbing a pole if he’s looking down at his feet or straight ahead. They should be looking straight ahead. You should be able to climb a pole without worrying where your feet are.

Baron USA, Inc.
DIS-TRAN Packaged Substations, LLC