August 2021 Featured Employee: Jeff Upright

August 2021 Featured Employee: Jeff Upright

Utility Locator I
August 26, 2021

We thought it fitting to interview Utility Locator Jeff Upright this month since August 11th was National 811 Day, a day celebrating Jeff’s job. Each year, 811 Day is an initiative led by the U.S. Department of Transportation to showcase the practice of calling 811 to have utilities marked before any excavation project. 

Jeff joined Greenville Utilities as a Locator in May 2019 and is part of the Underground Locating Service (ULS) Section of the Gas Department. Although ULS is housed in Gas, this section provides an essential service to all four of our utility services (Electric, Water, Wastewater, and Gas). 

When a contractor or customer is planning any kind of excavation or digging work, from residential gardens to big construction, NC state law requires them to call NC 811 to request that all underground lines be marked. When GUC receives requests from NC 811, Jeff and our team of Locators use different types of equipment and methods (including geographic information system mapping and ground penetrating radar) to find each underground facility in the proposed digging site. The areas are marked with colored flags and spray paint to indicate the type of service that is underground. Our Locators respond to an average of over 19,000 locate requests per year, which helps to avoid costly repairs. It also helps keep employees, contractors, and customers safe by avoiding a potentially dangerous natural gas emergency. 

“Put simply, our team is responsible for locating and marking underground critical infrastructure facilities in an effort to protect life and property and to minimize service interruptions during excavation,” said Jeff. “I also like to follow up with contractors who I’ve marked locations for. That relationship between the contractor and GUC is very critical. I’ve learned over the years that the better our relationships with contractors, the more they will communicate with us about their excavation needs.” 

Before joining GUC, Jeff owned a utility contract business for a few years and then worked for a locate contractor for 14 years - so he has been in the locate/utility industry for 17 years. Jeff received his locator certifications from Staking University, the premier locator training organization in the U.S. 

Jeff says the best part about his job is being outside. “I love the good and the bad of outside work – the hot, the cold, the wet, whatever it is. I also like that we are solo out in the field and can prioritize our own workload. I will add that, outside of my time in the Army, GUC is the most workable and family/community-oriented place that I have worked. I have discovered that GUC has almost 500 people who are all on the same sheet of music, and that they really care about their jobs.” 

As Jeff mentioned, he served in the Army before joining the utility industry. He served as a Paratrooper for ten years and was then stationed in Europe, mostly Germany, for ten years in a mechanized division (tanks and other fighting vehicles). He said he really enjoyed getting to travel Europe during the second half of his Army career.  

Raised in Manning, South Carolina, Jeff now lives in Grifton with his wife, Carol, who works in Vidant’s Verification Office. “We’re like the Brady Bunch,” he said. “I have two adult boys eight years apart in age (Justin and Collin), and Carol has two adult girls eight years apart (Madison and Taylor). Both sets of our children are very close in age – it’s pretty cool.” Jeff’s oldest son is currently serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.  

In their spare time, Carol and Jeff enjoy traveling, going to concerts, and visiting flea markets. Jeff also likes to work on home projects. “Well, I don’t always enjoy it, but it must be done,” he joked. Jeff is currently redoing the garage and the room off the garage, building a patio, and installing a fence. Next up, installing shiplap in their kitchen. 


TV Show: Game Of Thrones
Vacation: Mountains
Movie: The Matrix
Restaurant: CPW's