It didn't occur to her after high school to learn a trade, but after touring a vocational college, Judy Drown of rural Porter not only learned how to be an electrician, but now teaches it and has recently opened her own electrician business - Drown Electric Service.
As a girl, Drown would "tag along" with her father, who was in the air conditioning and refrigeration business, she said, and liked helping him.
Drown is the daughter of Lew and Waneta Heaton, who are originally from Canby.
Photo by Karin Elton
Electrician Judy Drown checks voltages on a fusebox.
After a divorce which left Drown with three children and in need of a job, she moved to Canby from the Twin Cities. The job outlook was slim, so Drown, who is now married to Joe Drown, took classes at Minnesota West in 2002. On a tour, it was pointed out to her that electricity was something to look into. Although not a typical woman's field, she said it's something women in particular can do and excel at because of their smaller hands and dexterity and attention to detail.
Attending classes and taking care of three children was hard, but Drown said she was determined and her perseverance paid off.
"I passed the journeyman test on the first try," she said, "which is something only 20 percent of people do."
She said she also passed the master electrician test on the first try, another rare feat.
"I liked (the field) and wanted to be good at it," she said.
Drown teaches classes at Minnesota West in the winter months and works full-time as an electrician during the summer and will go to part-time in the winter.
Drown does residential and commercial jobs. So far, she hasn't done commercial work yet and has been busy with remodeling jobs and redoing electricity in houses, putting in new lighting and the like. She take care of all electrical needs, she said, from wiring a new building to repairing wiring.
There's plenty of work out there, she said. There's a two-month waiting period for people who want work done.
"I don't think there's going to be any problem for me picking up work," she said.
For now, Drown is keeping busy based on word of mouth from her customers.
"I couldn't have done it (opened her own business) without my husband's support and my kids' support," she said.
Drown has taught her children a little about wiring. Her daughter asked her why she had to learn how to wire electricity.
"I told my daughter, 'someday you'll have to teach your husband,'" Drown said.