IBEW 159 members come from many different backgrounds. We look forward to introducing you to some of them.
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Meet a Member of Local 159: Jim Virnig
Jim Virnig grew up in Madison, in the Bay Creek Neighborhood, near Lakeside St. He graduated from Central High School in the class of 1963. He was initiated into IBEW 159 in 1964.
“I was going to go into auto body work, until my dad’s boss, Hugo Kaeler, talked me into electrical work.” Jim’s first job was with Kaeler Electric, on Lakeside St. One mentor, early on, was Ken Geishirt.
A memorable work experience: Working at Falk School on the west side, I was blowing water out of pipe with a compressor. The water blew out on the other end through the boxes. There in the entranceway, was a meeting of the architect and other big wigs. They got a little wet… I went and hid for a while, til things settled down. Another time, I was threading big pipe with a pony threader and the vise flipped, and started jumping around, til l was able to stop the pony.
Shops where Jim worked: Kaeler Electric, Capital Electric, Academy Electric, Westphal, H & H, and also worked for the State, downtown covering the GEF and administration buildings.
Also worked on the road at Byron, IL.
While working for the state during the Governor Lucey era, I put security in the Governor’s Mansion to guard the wine cellar. With Capital Electric they did a lot of houses for Midland homes.
I worked with Bob Call. He was a good guy to work with. Then went to work for Academy Electric. Worked on Monona Shores.
People would never guess: I used to teach horseback riding, during high school. Before the Alliant Energy Center was built, there was a horse stable there. Later on, I started working at Alliant Energy Center, and wired the exhibition hall. And I began working there at events. I retired a decade ago, and I was still working at the Alliant Center until COVID, when I was furloughed.
In addition to helping with Fantasy in Lights, Jim has done a lot of volunteer work over the years, including wiring houses for Habitat for Humanity, tutoring local school kids with reading. He volunteers annually at the Building Trades Council’s Take Kids Fishing event. He still volunteers at Habitat ReStore on Odana Rd. And of course, Jim organized the IBEW 159 Retirees group for many years. He says, “Today, I can’t do as much as I used to. Thank you to Tim May for taking over the Retirees and organizing Fantasy In Lights.”
Thank you Jim, for all you have done and continue to do for Local 159!