Before Gearold Leverett began climbing towers and installing high-tech equipment for a living starting in 2001, our broadband division’s inaugural year, he worked as a carpenter. Back then, Google gave you far fewer search results and dial-up — a form of internet that uses a telephone network to establish a connection — was still the norm across the nation.
The recent retiree confesses that he didn’t know a lot about computers when he was first hired. Today, two decades later, not much has changed.
“I still don’t know a whole lot about computers,” he said and laughed. “Climbing and doing the work was what I was good at, and I’ll miss the people I met and got to visit every day.”
In early June, our cooperative celebrated Gearold’s retirement from Wheatland Broadband, following 20 years of service. The carpenter-turned-technician started out as an installer when Wheatland erected its very first broadband tower in Scott City. The challenges to building and maintaining a brand-new network in a rapidly changing industry were numerous. New towers and lots of high-tech equipment were necessary to bring fast internet access to unserved and underserved homes, farms and businesses across western Kansas.
“When we first started, people were using dialup and when we started [broadband service], we were almost 20 times faster than dial-up,” Gearold said. “People from big cities who were used to dial-up speeds wondered how we got such fast internet out here.”
Thanks to a pioneering spirit and hard work from cooperative employees like Gearold, Wheatland Broadband developed critical infrastructure across our region, not only connecting homes and businesses but also improving quality of life, community development, and economic growth and prosperity for rural communities like ours.
Today, the reach of our broadband network stretches even further than our electric service across our western territory, with service that is fast, affordable and more reliable than ever before.
Employees like Gearold are part of the reason our broadband network exists today, and we can’t thank him enough for his work and dedication over the years. While retirement will certainly allow more time for both fishing and family (including 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren), there are aspects of work-life that Gearold will miss, he says, including the relationships he’s built with colleagues and community members — not to mention, the thrill of reaching new heights.
“I’ll miss being outside, climbing towers. Most people think it’s dangerous, but it’s safer than driving down the road,” he said. “I was never afraid. I’m not afraid of heights. You trust your equipment, and after that, you find out it’s like driving a car.