Navajo Homecoming: Austin Energy lineworker returns to his Arizona birthplace to bring power to Navajo Nation families

June 13, 2024

Navajo Nation PresidentFor Austin Energy journeyman lineworker Edward Jodie, the utility’s recent trip to aid the Navajo Nation was more than a homecoming. It was a celebration of a life and career that has come full circle.
Born on the Navajo Nation, Jodie was among 16 crew members that made the nearly 2,000-mile round trip to Window Rock, AZ. Over two weeks, Austin Energy lineworkers installed 10 miles of overhead electrical lines and 78 electrical poles. The result: nine Navajo families had working electricity in their homes for the first time.

“It feels good coming back to the place I’m from and where my roots are here in the Navajo Nation,” Jodie said. “Electricity is a luxury for most of us and a lot of the people here on the reservation have made do without it, they grew up without it.”

Jodie was born in Fort Defiance, Arizona and grew up there until he turned five, when he moved to Phoenix with his family. He recalls visiting his grandparents on the reservation and that they had no utilities, running water or electricity. His grandmother would place solar panels on the roof to charge old car batteries, and when the sun went down, she would use those batteries to power lamps.
While Jodie’s grandparents eventually received utilities, thousands of Navajo families still live without those vital resources. The Navajo Nation stretches across parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, and has rugged terrain that makes it challenging to install the infrastructure needed to power the area.

“Like Texas, Arizona can go from flat land to mountainous terrain,” Jodie said. It was challenging for us and our equipment, but we made a plan as a team and got the job done. It’s a great, humbling experience.”

Highlights of Jodie’s return to Arizona include visiting his family on the reservation and meeting Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren. As meaningful as those experiences were, the best memories will be of helping bring power to Navajo families.

“Seeing them turn on the porch light for the first time and their face just lights up, it’s a sense of accomplishment,” Jodie said. “It’s like I was meant to come back here and help my people.”

About the Light Up Navajo Project

Thanks to a partnership between Austin Energy, the American Public Power Association (APPA) and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), many Navajo families are turning on the lights in their homes for the first time.

In 2022, eight Austin Energy staff, along with utility providers in nine other states, traveled to Arizona for the first time to provide this life-changing service. The lineworkers, crew leaders and supervisory staff worked alongside the NTUA to connect Navajo families to the electric grid. Austin Energy crews returned to participate in Light Up Navajo twice in 2023 and will again in 2024.

Not having access to electricity has many repercussions for Navajo families: lack of access to running water, reliable lighting, modern forms of home heating and cooling and appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves. Families in the Navajo Nation drive an hour or more several times a week to reach watering points where they can fill 250-gallon plastic tanks with water for cooking, cleaning and drinking. To keep food from perishing, families often must use portable coolers filled with ice to preserve their food.