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Home | HOUSTON | Spotlight | Spotlight - Tim Zemencsik, Operations Manager, Highlights Electrical, Houston

Spotlight - Tim Zemencsik, Operations Manager, Highlights Electrical, Houston


HOUSTON - Tim Zemencsik, Operations Manager at Highlights Electrical, wears many hats each day. His duties include human resources, safety management, project management, estimating, sales, customer relations and training.





Where did you grow up?
    In Conroe, Texas and graduated from Conroe High School. After that, I lived in Magnolia for 29 years and moved to Tomball two years ago.

How did you learn all of your skills?

My father was the greatest influence in my life when it comes to my skills. He was a person that could do anything he put his mind to. Working with Pop was one training session followed by another. Working on cars, woodwork, electrical, plumbing, drywall, painting, heavy machinery, concrete work, flooring, landscaping, fencing…I could really go on and on. I never forgot in all my years the things Dad taught me. “Anything worth doing is worth doing right,” he would say. “Leaders have the ability to see what others cannot,” he loved that one. And he taught me that Rock and Roll died when we lost Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. I didn’t have a clue who these people were growing up in the ‘80’s, but in time I learned.  If you worked in my Dad’s garage you listened to old Rock and Roll. Dion and the Belmonts is my favorite.

How long have you been working for Highlights Electrical?
    I started in 2001.

What made you want to work in the electrical industry?

I was inspired after I graduated high school by a very good friend of my father’s who was an electrician. My first electrical teacher, Arnold Webber, was also very encouraging. I was working on the new Montgomery County Law Enforcement Center with him and learned a lot. Arnold was a perfectionist and doing things right was everything to him. He was a true craftsman. I worked with him on the Del Lago Resort project also. As a young man, before I was even licensed, I got into a lot of big commercial projects, which is probably why my aptitude for that kind of work accelerated so quickly. The exposure lead to a lot of the practical knowledge I gained in the field, but there was always a necessity to get schooling. I started schooling in the 80’s for my apprenticeship, fiber optics, and communication systems. After moving into the office in the mid ‘90’s I went back to school for estimating, project management, and business development. Over the years I’ve completed hundreds of hours of OSHA safety training.

Aside from handling the HR in the office, what else are in you charge of?

I’m the safety officer for our company, which is a very demanding job, and one I take very seriously. My crews count on me to keep them safe; they have families and children, all of which drive me to perform my safety duties to the best of my ability. I help with tools and equipment, building maintenance, fleet management, estimating, project management, managing my customer accounts, data system designs and installations, fabrication estimates, and other duties as assigned. Operations is very demanding, you have to manage your time well. I like to jokingly say an Operations Manager is one who performs precision guesswork based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge.

What other positions do you take on during the day?
    Guidance counselor, comic relief, bathroom attendant, coffee technician, and housekeeper. I’ll go where I am needed. I’ve studied some philosophy and psychology and I think both have really helped me in HR.  

What is your favorite part of your job?

I’m a purist electrician. I enjoy the complicated projects, design, planning and doing the impossible. I’m at my best when things are at their worst my friend Stephen told me years ago. Hurricanes and Tropical Storms? I’ve been involved in seven major storms in my career. People like myself have to step up when things get bad. I recently did a project for the US Army Corps of Engineers. I was asked to do the job by word of reputation, which is an incredible place to be. There are only two dam facilities in the country that have horizontal hydrodrives and we did the one at Lake Steinhagen recently where they needed to change out a medium voltage transformer 4160 or 5KV. One of the unique parts about this dam is the structure is made of concrete and it floats. Everything had a timeline because the 12,000-lb. roof that accesses the interior, which is below the water line, is where the mechanical room is, so we had to take the 12,000-lb. steel lid off the top of it and get everything in and everything out before it rained. Oddly enough, this was scheduled right before Hurricane Harvey. We monitored the storm and added additional personnel to the crew and just got after it. We did all the work and sealed the roof back, which is a spillway for discharge from Sam Rayburn. After Harvey, our roof got tested because the water did go over the spillway and that following week, I got a phone call from my contact James at the Army Corps and he told me he was very impressed, there wasn’t a single leak. They lost power, but everything did what it needed to do – the generator came on and it transferred and rolled over. James was the first one to go down and check everything out and, in his words, “everything was picture perfect.”  It’s challenges that come with my job that I like.

Is there a project you completed that really stands out for you? One that you will never forget?

Yes, that would be Greensboro Tower Plaza in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. United Guarantee was the biggest tenant in the building we constructed.  It was near the Jefferson Pilot building in downtown. It was incredible how fast the building went up. We did every interior buildout for all the tenants. At times we had 100 electricians on the property. We did all the data and communication cabling, also. I was very proud of that project and still am. I met my wife Kathy Jean in North Carolina when I started the job, and she moved back to Texas with me when I finished. We were happily married for 20 years until I lost her to cancer. I still miss her very much. I’m dating a school teacher now who works for Klein ISD, Sandra Clifford. Sandra is a wonderful lady and I’m happy she’s in my life.

Tell me about how you came about meeting your wife while working on this project.

Some local guys I came to know on the jobsite invited me to a barbecue in Kernersville, it’s near Winston-Salem. Country Western music was playing, I got a tap on the shoulder, was asked to dance, and I danced with her for 20 years. Kathy introduced me to the Smokey Mountains, to this day I still love it there. Gatlinburg and Cherokee are favorite places.

Do you have anything you would consider your greatest accomplishment in your career?
It’s my job at Highlights. The staff at Highlights I work with, the crews, and the customers we work for make every day great. Brett Daniel, the owner of Highlights, is a great person to work for and he’s created a great company. I’ve been at Highlights for 16 years now. This is where I’ll retire someday.

It sounds like you really love this company.

I really do. I manage a fine group of electrical workers, most of which I’ve hired over the years. Highlights is a great place to work.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I enjoy reading. I believe knowledge is power of the mind, body, and spirit. I enjoy deer hunting and coin collecting, but my passion has been the study of Civil War history. Over the years I’ve consumed many books on Civil War history, too many to count. I’ve travelled to all the battlefield sites, some more than once. Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Chickamauga, and Chancellorsville were some of my favorite sites. I enjoy almost anything about history. If I missed my calling in life it would be a Civil War Park Ranger. Electrical work pays better, so I think I’ll stay where I’m at.

Do you have a favorite book?
    This is going to sound so strange, but I would have to say The National Electrical Code book. I use it every day, it helps me to do my job, and over time I have mastered that book. I can share that knowledge with others so they understand what I do. Shelby Foot is one of my favorite authors of Civil War history and I really enjoy Grant Comes East by Newt Gingrich. 

Can you offer up any words of advice for the younger generation?
Put down your smart phones, stop texting, and just walk away. Try actually talking to people and having real conversations. Seriously, go to school if you want to be a good electrician. Pay attention and learn everything you can in the field. Never forget safety! Have a plan for your career and life. “If you fail to plan you can plan on failing,” is what my dad taught me. - te

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Author Info
Tanya Erickson houstoneditor@constructionnews.net