HEM Randy Donnarumma, right, chats with then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
Photo by Andy Pernick
Hydroelectric Mechanic (HEM) Randy K. Donnarumma will end his nearly 44-year Federal career in late September, 23 years of which he has worked in the Lower Colorado Region. Donnarumma works at Hoover Dam where some of his duties, since his arrival there in 2004, have included “. . . top-side disassembly and assembly of a unit in overhaul to prep the unit for rotor pick,” he said.
He also operated and maintained the four 300-ton bridge cranes in the Arizona and Nevada generator galleries. Additionally, Donnarumma was responsible for providing crane service and support throughout the overhaul season — October through June — to HEM overhaul crews, electricians, Western Area Power Administration staff and contractor crews throughout the powerplant.
“We also provided forklift service and support for the loading and unloading of equipment off of cars, pickups, trucks, etc.,” he added. “When I transferred to Hoover Dam in June 2004, within a month or so, I volunteered to be on the Fire Brigade for the extracurricular activity,” he said. “Not only do we train to fight fires, we also trained for high-angle rescue and confined space rescue, which is ‘pretty cool’ stuff; I stepped down in April 2016.”
Donnarumma began working in the LC Region in 1994 when he joined the staff at Davis Dam. However, his Federal career began years before when he served in the U.S. Navy.
“After serving in the Navy as an ABE (steam catapult and arresting gear operator/mechanic) aboard the USS Constellation CVA-64 and three West Pac tours in Vietnam, I was honorably discharged and immediately got into the Veterans Recruitment Appointments (VRA) program. This got me started [as a civilian employee] at the Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island, San Diego, California in February 1975,” he said.
There he worked as an aircraft engine worker, working on F4 Phantoms, J-79 jet engines and Huey helicopter T-64 & T-68 turbine engines. Additionally, he worked as an aircraft launch and recovery device mechanic.
“I worked on catapult and arresting gear systems for aircraft carriers such as USS Ariskani, USS Coral Sea, USS Independence, USS Ranger, USS Kitty Hawk, USS constellation and the USS Enterprise,” he said. “As I started my new job as an aircraft engine worker at NAS North Island, I also started my reserve time with the Air Force Reserve as a flight engineer on a B-141, stationed at March Air Force Base with the 452 Bomber Air Wing,” Donnarumma recalled.
During that time, he attended school, trained at Norton Air Force Base and flew with the 452 Air Wing at March Air Force Base. “This was the most memorable and challenging time of my life.”
Responding to a question about job satisfaction, he declared, “First and foremost was money! When the Bureau of Reclamation hired him to work at Davis Dam, he said he received a $6 an hour raise, “. . . and my life with my family changed forever!”
Donnarumma is a graduate of San Diego State University, where he earned his Bachelor Degree in mechanical engineering. He is also a certified crane operator, rigger and forklift operator.
“I plan on purchasing a catamaran and sail back to the Hawaiian Islands and re-explore the islands in a different perspective, but I won’t be able to do that until my daughter Ralynn graduates in 2020,” he said describing his plans for after retirement. “Meanwhile, I earned my private pilot certificate in 1997 and have owed three general aviation aircraft since then.”
He said he flies “. . . all over the country” in his 1968 Mooney M20C four-seater, which he keeps at the Boulder City Municipal Airport. “I’m working on picking up my CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) certificate,” he added, so he can teach flying at the Boulder City airport until his daughter graduates.
To those who are just beginning their Federal career, Donnarumma advised, “Learn how to flow and adapt with the group of people you work with. You think you know it all? Then you’re a ‘wanna be.’ You’ll only prove your arrogance in the eyes of a seasoned journeyman. Learn how to flow.”