By Aimee Milks
Dedicated, passionate, family-man, crazed motorsports fan, community-activist, loyal, are just some of the terms many use to describe Stephen Wright, Executive Director of Dig Safely New York, Inc.
For more than 21 years, Wright has been a significant contributor to Dig Safely New York, helping to build the organization into what it is today. But at the end of 2014, Wright will be stepping down, retiring from the Executive Director position.
For 47 years, Wright has cultivated his passion for damage prevention. He began his career at Rochester Gas & Electric (RG&E), only three years after the nation’s first one-call center began at RG&E. His entry position at the company gave him first-handed experiences on the damage that could result from not protecting underground utilities. As Wright continued his career, whether in engineering or management positions, he continued to develop a strong desire to do what he could to help eliminate the dangers that lurk day-to-day. This led him to volunteer his time at Dig Safely New York.
It was in October 1993 that Wright was appointed to the Board of Directors for Dig Safely New York (then known as Underground Facility Protection Organization). He quickly forged ahead, taking over the chairmanship of the Promotions and Education Committee in 1994, elected to the Vice President seat in 1994, and then in 1995 becoming the Board President— a position he held for nine years. During that time, Wright led many efforts to help shape Dig Safely New York into what it has become today.
In 2004, following Wright’s retirement from RG&E, he applied for the Executive Director position at Dig Safely New York and was appointed in November. With the assistance of his management team, Wright began to aggressively launch marketing programs and education seminars to each out to excavators, and learn new effective ways to assist in damage prevention. He increased the organization’s field staff and challenged them to new outreach programs to minimize damages to underground facilities. Over the last 10 years, the organization has established and continues major initiatives such as t-shirt programs, safety seminars, a diverse motorsports program, and expectations for field representatives to train at least 10,000 excavators annually. They also consistently look to increase their capabilities, value to member utilities, and reach in New York State.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of the job was to witness damages per thousand decrease from seven to 10, down to the two per thousand range,” Wright said. “There was no silver bullet that has made this happen. It has been the ongoing efforts of our members financially supporting Dig Safely New York’s efforts. It has been the dedicated Board of Directors I have worked with over the last 20 plus years, and our employees who believe in what they do and the mission of the company. Everything we do — everything Dig Safely will do — is devoted to improving communications and reducing damages.”
In January 2015, Dig Safely New York will enter its 46th year of business under new leadership.
“The amount of knowledge, expertise, and professionalism Stephen brings not only to Dig Safely New York, but the damage prevention industry, is amazing,” said Kevin Hopper, Operations Manager and soon to be Executive Director of Dig Safely New York. “I can’t replace him, but I’m going to step in and do what I can to keep things progressing. The future for Dig Safely New York is bright and a significant factor of that has been Stephen’s leadership. I hope to make him proud and assist in making the dream of a damage rate of zero per thousand a reality.”
Aimee M. Milks is the Marketing/Public Relations Coordinator for Dig Safely New York, Inc. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.