Dolan Media Newswires
Oklahoma City – Roger Power has only eight years to make sure the state Capitol is in tiptop shape for its centennial celebration, and he’s looking forward to the challenge.
After 30 years, Power probably knows more about the inner workings of state government than any other person in the building. Literally, the inner workings: air conditioning systems, electrical lines, plumbing, floor and ceiling tiles – you name it, Power knows how it all fits together in the Capitol.
“I guess you could say I know the easiest way to get from Point A to Point B, and how to avoid problems along the way,” said the construction maintenance tech grade III, Power’s official job title.
“We don’t have a lot of time before the centennial in 2017, so we’ve got to get busy, working on getting the building in its best condition. There are a lot of plans in place, and they’ve finally trickled down to the workers to take care of. We’re getting excited about that.”
Power was promoted to his current position about two years ago. He began working at the Capitol as a maintenance electrician when he was 25 years old and steadily acquired greater responsibility as he expanded his skill set and knowledge of the building.
Not that the building waited for him to catch up. The Capitol is constantly changing in response to the people it serves, Power said. For example, the Hall of Governors, with its double rows of governors’ busts looking down on visitor benches, was once subdivided for offices for the Court of Appeals. When those operations moved down the street, the governor’s office temporarily took over the space, only to convert it to a grand hall a few years later.
And the so-called “mini grand” stairway that runs directly under the south entrance of the building once led to Labor Department offices, he said. Now it’s a public security checkpoint. At the top of the stairs stands a replica of The Guardian, the statue that adorns the Capitol dome. The dome itself was added in 2002, a massive construction project that kept Power on his toes, trying to ensure the building remained tidy and open for business during work hours.
So Power is the go-to guy when a construction contractor or supplier has questions about crossed lines, for example, because not only does he know how the building’s circulation is laid out, but he understands why it came to be that way.
And during any project, he and his co-workers try to maintain a balance between pragmatism and aesthetics.
“We’d like to keep the appearance of antiquity of the original building but also keep it up to date with the latest technology. As the people progress, the building has to progress, too, but you can’t forget history,” he said. “I’ve been in most of the buildings in the Capitol complex, and each building has its own personality and characteristics. Sort of an attitude. I guess its personality is: ‘I’m here to serve.’”
The high point of Power’s career so far was a visit by President Reagan in 1983: “The atmosphere was so exciting, I’ll never forget it. The whole building was filled with a sense of anticipation,” he said. “It took a while for everybody to come down from that feeling after he left.”
The public might not think Power’s job is as important as the president of the United States, but they do share something valuable.
“When you tell people, ‘I work at the Capitol building,’ it’s almost a prestige thing,” Power said. “It’s a pleasure to help serve the people. It kind of makes you feel good to be a public servant.”