Known as “Mike the light bulb guy” to some employees on the Urbana campus, Mike Wood’s amiable manner and ready smile help illuminate the 30 buildings in his work zone as much as the work he does as a laborer-electrician. Before joining the staff of Facilities and Services Division (then known as the Operation and Maintenance Division) in 1987, Wood worked as a bank teller, a hospital orderly, a teacher’s aide/bus driver/custodian at a day-care center, an auditor/accountant with the state of Illinois and a landscaper/physical fitness instructor/movie projectionist with the Champaign Park District. A graduate of Champaign Central High School and the appliance/motor repair program of Stills Electric Co., in Decatur, Wood studied business and other subjects at Parkland College and at the UI. He has volunteered with many organizations – as a youth mentor in local schools and as a board member of the National Council of African-American Men, among others – but he has a special affinity for the Champaign Park District, where he began working as a volunteer during high school and eventually became an employee. “I found my love in the community working for the park district,” working with youth and with elderly people, said Wood, who also sits on the board of Community Blood Services of Illinois and has donated more than 20 gallons of blood.
As a laborer-electrician, what do you do?
I provide lighting in my area, Zone B, which is the heart of campus: Altgeld Hall, Swanlund, etc. We have six zones and one or two people per zone. I change fluorescent, incandescent and mercury vapor bulbs in light fixtures in classrooms, offices, hallways and other places. And I get different work orders and have to go check things out. Maybe someone hears a fixture buzzing, or it’s flickering or they notice leaking or a burning odor. I’ll check the ballast and sometimes tag it so a trouble-shooter electrician can come out and check it. We also clean and upgrade fixtures.
We start work at 7 a.m. so I can get into conference rooms or classrooms before the students or staff members get there.
What do you enjoy most?
It’s rewarding meeting people. I have to say the faculty members and staff members enjoy my services and take good care of me, giving me goodies when they have parties. We also have a great staff and a super boss.
What hobbies do you have or what do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
My hobby would be working with people in the community. I’ve been the union steward for more than five years now for AFSCME Local 698 in electric shop 1. I went to AFSCME’s conference in Springfield last weekend.
I recently went on a five-day cruise to Jamaica and Puerto Rico with my girlfriend on Carnival Cruise Line’s Imagination ship. We beat the hurricane; it was a little behind us, but the ship’s captain rerouted us a little because of it. Unfortunately, it was some type of holiday in Jamaica and many things were shut down, but we went sightseeing and took in all the historic sites and went snorkeling, swimming and parasailing. The people were nice, but the vendors were very aggressive and would grab me by the hand and pull me over to look at the stuff in their booths.
There was a group of about 60 of us who went together, and I got a chance to meet a lot of different people. Just the idea of being on the Caribbean was wonderful. It is just fascinating how big these ships are. The food was wonderful, especially the jerk chicken. I brought back a lot of souvenirs, shirts and stuff.
This was my second cruise. On the first cruise, I went to Cozumel, Mexico.
I have a 22-year-old son and a 23-year-old daughter, who reside in a suburb of Atlanta.
I try to stay in shape and work out at the Intramural Physical Education Building for about 90 minutes at a time. I use the treadmill, the stationary bike and then go to the pool and tread water for 20 minutes. That works out all the muscles.