April 24, 2014 10:48:52 AM
Ask anybody who has ever worked with Charlie "C.F." Harris what they think about him and they'll tell you two things: He's a straight shooter, and he's a pleasure to work with.
After 44 years at Columbus Light and Water, starting as a lineman and spending more than his last 20 as the electric superintendent, Harris is done. CL&W employees past and present honored him Tuesday during his retirement reception.
The electric substation on The Island, built in 2011, will now bear Harris' name after CL&W General Manager Todd Gale presented him with a "C.F. Harris Substation" sign.
More times than he'd like to count, Harris said he put work before family when inclement weather or major system upgrades required all hands on deck. He was quick to mention that he was grateful for that support but also thankful to have worked with the many people, past and present, in his second family at CL&W.
"I owe a lot of people a lot of thanks and a lot of gratitude," Harris said. "It's been a journey through life, and if I had to do a thing over, I wouldn't do it differently. I owe a lot of thanks to my wife and family because they supported me when I put Columbus Light and Water before my family many times. With my kids and my wife, when it came a storm for the last 40-something years, I left home, but that wasn't a big deal with them."
Bob Herron, who worked in a similar role as Harris with 4-County Electric Department and corresponded with him regularly, has a friendship with Harris that predates CL&W. The two worked together at 4-County while Herron was a college student and Harris was a lineman at CL&W. Herron said he remembered when he, Harris and other workers had to set electric poles by hand before vehicles were equipped to do so.
Herron praised his knowledge of the industry and ability in his role.
"Managing people is always hard to do," Herron said. "In the position C.F. and I had, we had to answer to general management, but we also had to take care of the employees. Middle management is a hard place to be, and he did it really well."
Lineman Mike Balthis acknowledged ups and downs during his 25 years at CL&W, most of which have been spent working for Harris.
"He'll shoot you straight," Balthis said. "You may not like it and you may not agree with it, but ultimately it was his decision. But he's always been here for us and he's dedicated a lot of his life to this and that's really to be commended."
Gale said Harris' service to Columbus has been "above and beyond everybody else's as far as I'm concerned."
Harris said he was looking forward to retirement "so much you can't imagine."
"These little ones here (his grandchildren) are going to be my life," Harris said. "Wherever they will be, I want to be involved in it. I'm going to be involved in it."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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