NEWTON FALLS For 30+ years, Larry Durkos brought power to the people
NEWTON FALLS -- Larry Durkos is ready to pull the plug on a 31-year career of keeping the lights on.
"I'm gonna retire, the question is when," Durkos said, leaning back in a chair in his office in the municipal electric plant.
Durkos, who wears jeans and the camouflage hat of the Newton Falls Volunteer Fire Department, says he had planned to leave at the end of February.
But the city has not found a replacement yet, so he may still be staying a while.
When Durkos began as a linesman for the city, rows of gas and diesel generators once produced for all of Newton Falls' needs in the aging brick building by the east branch of the Mahoning River. Twenty-four hours a day, a city employee monitored the deafening machines.
High fuel prices and broken generator camshaft in the mid-1970s pushed the city out of the generation business. The city buys electricity from suppliers at bulk rates, but still maintains the distribution equipment that brings it to city, and a few township, homes.
The city has four full-time employees to keep the system running.
In his memory, the system has only really broken down twice, said Durkos, who is the supervisor.
The tornado that cut a swath through Newton Falls in 1985 knocked out power to much of the city. Crews from 11 or 12 other communities were called in to help restore electricity, a job that Durkos said kept him busy from sunrise to sunset for three weeks.
A blizzard in 1978 also stretched thin the resources of the city electrical department, he said.
Far more common, city workers quickly fix a downed line or blown transformer when a local outage strikes.
But all these years of bringing power to people's homes has not changed what Durkos thinks when he flips a light switch.
"I'm like everybody else," he said. "I just notice when the power is out."