We recently learned that former IBEW 1245 staffer Darrel Mitchell died on November 15. He gave as much to Local 1245 as anyone, and his contributions will benefit our members for years.
Darrel was a Gas Service Representative for PG&E in Richmond. He came on staff as a Business Representative in 1973. He was one of the last staff who worked under Business Managers Ron Weakley and L.L. “Mitch” Mitchell. He worked in East Bay, the North Coast, and Nevada (the non-Sierra Pacific assignment). When Jack McNally won his re-election in 1983, he needed a Senior Assistant as Larry Foss was unable to continue in that job. There were several logical candidates among the administrative staff, but a few of us urged Jack to consider Darrel. Jack picked him, and Darrel did that job for 18 years.
He took his work seriously. He studied writing and was good at it. For several years after he retired, he sent out a newsletter to friends, very much in the style of Herb Caen – well written, ironic, and funny.
He studied the contracts and was good at administering them. He was a big fan of technology. He started with 1245 in an era of rotary phones and messages written on slips of paper. He embraced computers and later mobile phones. He hired Bob Martin as our first technology specialist, and those first steps into the digital world were important and ahead of the curve.
He had many relationships with stewards and PG&E representatives alike. While it would be fair to characterize some of his relationships with company representatives as friendships, he never forgot that we and they are on different sides. The friendships might inform how we work problems out, but never got in the way of having differences. By definition, a Business Representative resists authority and rules, making the job of supervising them a serious challenge. Darrel knew this dynamic, and when he had to reign a rep in, he never forgot how he had been as a rep.
Darrel wasn’t always easy to work with, but he didn’t see his job as being everyone’s friend He had extremely high expectations of himself and he held staff to those same standards. He may have annoyed us with some of what we considered micro-managing, but when it came to big, important issues, he had our backs – you couldn’t ask for a better boss to back you up. He was unflinchingly loyal to his boss, Jack McNally.
If there is one trait that I admired the most, it was his willingness to admit a mistake. In the mid 1990’s, he made a mistake of judgment in dealing with PG&E’s displacement and layoff procedure. Joe Valentino and Sam Tamimi showed him his mistake. He considered what they said and agreed that he had made a mistake, not an easy thing to do.. That said, he was not willing to repudiate the agreement that he made with the Company. He believed that our word was our most important asset and that it should not be placed in doubt.
I think that Darrel had a great after-1245 life in Idaho, where the focus of his life was his younger son Terry.
I haven’t seen Darrel since just before he retired in 2001. Very few of our staff and stewards today knew and remember Darrel. I knew him. I remember him. And I know how much better off our members are all for his 28 years of work for Local 1245.
–Tom Dalzell, former IBEW 1245 Business Manager