From Salem to South Africa to The Dalles

NWCPUD Welcomes Joshua Smith to Its Engineering Team

Joshua Smith is the newest member of Northern Wasco County PUD’s engineering team.

Story and photo by Rodger Nichols

Joshua Smith is one of the newest members of the Northern Wasco County PUD staff, having joined in early February. Although his official title is engineering technician, he might well be called jack-of-all-engineering.

“My duties now are broad,” Joshua says. “I’m filling in the gaps of the engineering operations team currently. There are a lot of projects that have been put on the back burner that they want to get done. Right now I’m updating all of their old maps, scanning and digitizing everything, and organizing it so that they can be implemented into our GIS (geographic information system).”

Joshua will help the crew stake out new power lines to replace old ones and is taking over safety and transportation duties for a coworker who is out temporarily.

“I prefer the sink-or-swim approach,” he says, “because I can ask lots of questions and get to know a lot of different departments and people. I really enjoy not just doing one thing every day.”

Joshua’s ability to move efficiently among different aspects of engineering duties stems from well-rounded work experience. A Salem native, he graduated with an engineering degree from Oregon State University. He was a marine engineer for several years doing international humanitarian work on a passenger vessel.

“I worked as an engineer on there for 2 1/2 years, but I stayed on the ship for four years,” Joshua says.

The balance of their time on board he provided cross-cultural training.

Joshua then taught leadership development in South Africa for a year and a half, with class sizes from 60 to 80 people. While in South Africa, he took the opportunity to visit Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

Joshua says leading classes helped prepare him for his next role: spending four years getting a degree at a seminary in Chicago, where he met his wife, Alexandra, and became a licensed minister.

“Then we moved out here to The Dalles because my mom was leading the program here for women who are in and out of jail for drug addiction and alcohol,” Joshua says.

They helped with the program and worked with Joshua’s uncle, a pastor at Solid Rock Community Church.

“Eventually, we were doing too much,” Joshua says. “I kind of stepped out of that, and that’s when I started working on wind turbines.”

It had been 10 years of separation from his technical degree, but Joshua was able to catch up. He spent five years in the wind industry, followed by a little less than a year with the Bonneville Power Administration before he landed the job at Northern Wasco County PUD.

That transition was a quick one, Joshua says.

“I had a friend who had a connection with the operations, and he let me know there was a position open,” he says. “They wanted to have me in for an informational interview just so I could let them know my background because I hadn’t had any experience in this area. There were about four of the managers here, plus a couple of the engineers. I was able to share my story, and they shared about the job. Just the next day they called me and offered me the position.”

When not working, Joshua likes to do projects.

“I’ve got an old house we bought nine years ago, so I do a lot of house projects,” he says.

He and Alexandra have three children: Will, 7; Jack, 6; and Evelyn, 5. Joshua says the kids love the outdoors and share a lot of interests.

“We’re always out doing stuff,” he says, “going hiking, shooting archery, hunting.”

Joshua says he and Alexandra love it in the Gorge.

“She’s from the concrete jungle of Chicago, but she doesn’t miss being there at all,” he says. “She loves it out here, and we enjoy the scenery and the people in The Dalles. My mom still lives out here, and her husband. They have been our grandparents close by, and that’s good. We have a good church we go to, a good community of people that we’re connected with, and we’re very happy being planted here.”