Seattle City (spot)Light: Lee Simpkins

Lee Simpkins recently celebrated 36 years with Seattle City Light. He currently serves as the director of field operations, a position he’s held the past two years. “I oversee the day-to-day activity of the utility’s distribution and transmission operations,” Lee explained. “This includes overhead and underground crews; civil construction; streetlighting; scheduling and planning; and system operators. There are about 300 people in our division.”

Born and raised in Florida, Lee grew up near the Fort Lauderdale area. “I attended college on a basketball scholarship, but after a couple of years, I decided to join the Navy,” Lee said. “I had always wanted to see the world and I knew the service would provide me with invaluable experience.”

Lee lives in Shoreline with his wife Brenda, their two children and their niece and nephews. “Our family keeps pretty busy,” Lee shared. “Our kids play soccer and I also coach their basketball team. My wife and I do like to play a round of golf whenever we can, though!” In this week’s (spot)Light, Lee talks about his career at City Light and his time in the Navy.

Lee and Brenda vacationing in Florida

“I served as a radio technician in the Navy. We sent and received radio communications from ship to ship, shore to shore. My first duty station was near San Diego, but we traveled all over the world. Traveling was something I greatly enjoyed. We visited the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania…so many different places. Australia was my favorite place. It’s just beautiful. I also played on the All Navy Basketball team and spent considerable time traveling to different ports to play games. ”

“After my tour in the Navy, I planned on sticking around Seattle for a couple months before heading back to Florida. I ended up falling in love with the area. I found a job at City Light and that’s how my career at the utility began. I started as a lineworker apprentice. Through the years, I moved through the ranks as a journeymen lineworker, crew chief, supervisor and manager. All those steps led to my current role. It’s been very rewarding. I had no idea how my career would progress, but I took advantage of the opportunities the utility offered. I’ve had many mentors and supporters who’ve encouraged me; that’s always been the City Light way. That aspect of the utility—that family-type atmosphere—is special. You get to know the people you work with; they’re not just co-workers, they’re life-long friends.”

“Going through the ranks at City Light provided me with the ability to see things from various perspectives. On any given day, I can be faced with a myriad of issues and challenges that come across my desk. One minute I could be addressing a customer complaint or employee issue and the next minute I could be deeply involved in a procedural matter or preparing for an impending storm. Each day is interesting and challenging.”

“My family is my inspiration, especially my wife who reminds me to always look for the best in people, to be positive and to try to put yourselves in the other person’s shoes. For the most part, I believe people oversee their own destiny and that they can achieve their heart’s desire, understanding that it comes with sacrifice. If you’re willing to make those sacrifices, you have a fighting chance.”