Ty Hillebrand, Central Lincoln’s new General Manager, vividly recalls what it was like growing up with a dad who devoted his working life to this utility.
“Our whole family pitched in—I remember taking food, coffee and supplies out to the crews working to get customers back on after bad storms,” Ty recalls. “If they needed a boat to get to poles because it had rained a lot, dad let us know, and we’d tow ours to them to use.”
Ty grew up in Toledo, just east of Newport, while his father, Matt, worked for Central Lincoln as a groundsman. Matt was later promoted to an apprenticeship in our meter shop, requiring coursework in math and electronics. “I remember him studying nights and weekends after work while I’d be doing my algebra homework,” says Ty. “He taught me the value of hard work, and helped me understand that physical labor is every bit as satisfying as technical work. But a lifetime of physical work can leave quite a toll on one’s body, so my parents strongly encouraged me to go to college.”
The oldest of four boisterous boys, Ty smiles when thinking of his childhood in Toledo. He and his brothers were kept constantly busy working on projects with their dad, from building a shop to digging trenches.
Ty’s first paid job was mowing lawns in his neighborhood. When he turned 14, he worked two summer jobs: He’d ride with his dad to Central Lincoln’s Operations Center in South Beach, and then rode his bike to Newport’s Undersea Gardens to work as a scuba diver. Four hours later, he’d bike back to South Beach, to work for an excavation company, cleaning the company shop, greasing equipment and washing trucks.
After graduating from Toledo High School in 1999, Ty left for an Idaho junior college, still not sure what career he wanted, and he eventually returned to Toledo. A job with a local surveyor working on a project hooked him, and civil engineering became his goal. After checking out several universities, he chose Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. “It felt like Toledo,” he says. “It was a great fit for me.” After graduating cum laude at OIT, Ty was hired by the Washington Department of Transportation—after two summer internships with “WashDOT,” he’d impressed his supervisors with the quality of his work—and work ethic.
After successive promotions over ten years, Ty was supervising 30 employees. “I had some great opportunities to improve my managerial skill set; dispute resolution, overseeing large projects,” he reflects. But then he heard Central Lincoln’s civil engineer was about to retire, and he applied. “My wife Sarah and I really enjoy it here.”
Managers at Central Lincoln saw Ty’s potential, and he was quickly promoted to manage our Accounting and Information Technology departments, and served on the team coordinating a massive software conversion. When Randy Grove was promoted to General Manager, Ty was selected to direct Engineering and Operations, our largest department.
His combination of experience made Ty a clear choice by Central Lincoln’s board when Randy announced his retirement three years later.
“Central Lincoln’s service area is unique,” Ty says. “We’re in a ‘salt band’ so close to the ocean, which is tough on equipment, and means some pretty rough storms. Our service is very reliable, we’re a leader in resiliency, and in putting customers first, and these will remain the case under my watch. We’ll continue making vegetation management a high priority, and using technology advances when they make sense to advance our capabilities. We’re here for our customers, and I welcome talking with them. A key reason I’m back is I believe in this community, and I believe in this utility, and I want to be a part of both.”
When we asked Ty what he values: “Hard work and humility. I truly believe you don’t have to be ‘the smartest person in the room,’ but do have to be willing to take on any challenge that comes your way. My parents taught me to be honest and to do what it takes to get the job done. My mom encouraged me to really listen to people, and that’s important to me. My dad is excited for me, heading up the utility he enjoyed working at for 28 years before he retired. I know leading Oregon’s fourth-largest utility is a major responsibility, and I will strive to be worthy of it.”