Custodian Team Leader, Cumberland Fossil Plant | Cumberland City, Tenn.
Jason Ferguson is a leader whose work is at the heart of a long-standing mission of service. He is part of an elite group of unsung professionals at every site and facility who serve the fleet by maintaining the essential accommodations that allow all TVA employees and contractors to make life better for 10 million people living throughout our seven-state service region:
Unclog commode; restock toilet tissue; replace hand-soap canister
Remove trash; clean out breakroom refrigerator; mop floor
“People’s morale starts with us. No one wants to work in a place that’s dirty,” Ferguson said. “That’s what gets me up in the morning, knowing that I’m making a difference.”
Ferguson’s childhood dreams never entailed the work of a professional caretaker. He imagined being a police officer or a firefighter. But while his palate for flames and law enforcement changed with adulthood, his desire to lead remained as steady as his work ethic.
Ferguson became a TVA contract custodian at the now-retired New Johnsonville Fossil plant in February 2010. After proving himself, he became an annual employee a year later. Today, he serves at Cumberland Fossil Plant where he works as a dual-rate team leader, filling in for his supervisor during vacation or times of illness.
“If my boss is out, there is an area that is not being covered. Instead of assigning someone the extra work that will knock them out of their everyday duties, I try to assign it to myself,” Ferguson said. “I think the most effective leaders are the one who never assign jobs that they are reluctant to do themselves.”
That servant leadership style is one that Ferguson developed at New Johnsonville after the plant’s main sewage ejector clogged and overflowed, forcing the custodians to don protective clothing and PPE before cleaning up the mess.
“We were standing in 2 or 3 inches of raw sewage. It had leaked through the ceiling tiles and all the tiles were in the floor,” he said. “It was a pretty crappy job, but somebody had to do it.”
Ferguson said the experience prepared him for his current leadership role at Cumberland. “In my eyes, leadership is about demonstrating through your actions that you’re there to help, no matter what.”
Ferguson says the best part of his job is the satisfaction that comes when people recognize the work of his team — the little, everyday necessities that are often overlooked. Each roll of toilet paper, waxed hallway and empty garbage can are reminders of their labor.
“It makes me feel good when people come up and notice the work you do or how well things are looking and being kept,” he said. “During our last outage, we had a lot of folks come by and tell us ‘thanks.’ That means a lot to our team.”
Ferguson is not one to complain, but the job can also have its frustrations, like when a refrigerator is left packed with stale leftovers or a freshly mopped hallway is muddied. When professional courtesies aren’t extended — ones like walking around the wet area marked with caution signs or making the extra trip to a dumpster — the job becomes more difficult for Ferguson and his team.
Still, he uses all of these experiences to learn and become a better leader. He plans to be a manager in the field one day and knows he will be successful because of the unique leadership talents he is honing today as a TVA custodian serving those around him.
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