Local 16 President Billy Hodges retires after 43 years of service

Billy Hodges Jr. felt like it was the right time to let the younger generation lead the Local. 

The longtime President and JATC Coordinator for HFIAW Local 16 San Francisco did not seek re-election and officially began his retirement on Jan. 1, bringing an end to what he called a "fabulous 43-year career."

Hodges also recently stepped away as the Local's Training Coordinator after 13 years at the helm. Billy Hodges

"He was a dedicated President, Training Coordinator and Union member," said Local 16 Business Manager Chris Greaney. "He's been the heart of our Local as President and lends a hand to all members who need it."

Current Training Coordinator Jonathan Blaine became an instructor in 2009. Hodges was Blaine's instructor when he was going through the apprenticeship. 

"Billy is approachable, somebody who you enjoy their company," said Blaine. "A lot of people look up to him. He is always there to help."

A hard work ethic

After graduating high school, Hodges joined the Navy. After completing his service, he spent time as an auto mechanic before his cousin told him about the Insulators Union.

"It was hard work and I kept thinking, what did I get into," Hodges said. "When I saw the paycheck, I was sold on the union."

Learning the trade came naturally to Hodges who credits his success to the work ethic he inherited from his dad. 

"Dad would always say it was better to be 15 minutes early than one minute late," he said. "I was laid off as a first-year apprentice when the company I was working for closed," he recalled. 

That was the only time Hodges was ever laid off in his 30 years of working in the field. He traveled all over the territory, never turning down work. 

When the opportunity arose to become an instructor, Hodges realized he could not pass it up. 

Hodges realized that although the move prolonged his career, the one thing serving as the Training Coordinator could not replace was the comradery of working in the field. 

"That's the thing I miss most about being in the field -- the people and the comradery," he said. 

Hodges, always a dedicated Union member, understood the need to give back to the Local which is why he wanted to be involved. First, he ran for the Local 16 Executive Board as a Trustee. Then, he volunteered to be Vice President when a vacancy opened before eventually becoming the President of Local 16. 

Hodges 2He spent 20 years on the Executive Board, with 15 of those years serving as President. 

Serving the next generation

After spending time as an instructor, Hodges was appointed Training Coordinator in 2011. Under his watch, over 500 men and women completed the Local 16 registered apprenticeship program and began their journey to a middle-class lifestyle. 

Hodges found the Training Coordinator position challenging and said it was a big adjustment going from an Instructor and teaching the apprentices to Training Coordinator where the paperwork was enormous. 

Greaney said Hodges was instrumental in working with the JATC board and got multiple grants to expand the building.  He called Hodges the "driving force" to move the JATC forward.

Following the JATC's expansion, Hodges grew the incoming class to 200 apprentices and added full-time trainers. 

"It's fun working with apprentices and seeing the lights come on when they finally figure out how to make the cuts," Hodges said. "I preach the Golden Rule to them, 'Do unto others as you do unto yourself.'"

His strong moral beliefs made a lasting impact on apprentices -- including those battling with substance abuse. Many apprentices reached out to him at all hours of the night, struggling with their addiction. No matter the situation or time, he always did his best to help them in their moment of need.

Besides serving as both Local Union President and Training Coordinator, Hodges was a member of the International's JAC Steering Committee.

When Hodges officially retires, it does not mean Local 16 members will never see him. While he plans to spend more time with Katherine, his wife of 48 years, he is not the type of person who can just kick back and relax.

"He's coming back to teach our apprentices," Blaine said. "Many members retire and disappear, but he just gives and gives. He'll stay on as an instructor and he'll be involved as long as possible.

"We have been blessed to have him," he added.

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