Ty Carpenter was a welder for 26 years. Then, with hardly a look back, he put his entire career in the rearview mirror.

“A guy I worked with went to Asplundh,” Carpenter said. “A year after he called me and said, ‘want a job’?”

“He told me what it was. And I thought I was due for a life change. So I said yes.”

Simple as that, Carpenter said goodbye to welding and hello to tree trimming.

One of AEP Ohio’s newest foresters, Carpenter found his way to his current role in Columbus through a unique path. Growing up in hilly Barnesville (30 miles west of Wheeling, W.Va.), he took a couple welding classes in high school. The teacher said there were plenty of well-paying welding jobs in the shipyards of Norfolk, so once he graduated in 1984 Carpenter and his buddy packed up and headed for Virginia.

Carpenter spent two years building ships as a contractor for the U.S. Navy.

“I worked everywhere on the ship, from the very bottom inside the ship all the way up to hanging from the crow’s nest while welding,” he said. “I did a little bit of everything: fabrication, reading blueprints, figuring out how things were put together.”

Carpenter returned to Ohio for a job in Lima working at the tank manufacturing plant there. He joined an assembly line that built M1A1 Abrams tanks. Building tanks was different than building ships – there was more protective gear, he said – but his skills transferred well as he installed fuel cells and the fenders that hang over the tank treads.

Carpenter moved to central Ohio in 1988 (“Lima was too flat for me – I grew up in the hills”) and settled down for a 23-year run in the steel industry. He worked at Siemens building airport runway lights; he worked at Ohio Steel Industries helping supply pre-fabricated structural steel for large facilities including the Honda and Toyota plants; he worked at Suburban Steel Supply making the steel used in strip malls and larger residential homes.

But Carpenter was ready for something new. He wanted to get outdoors. And, also, he was tired of getting burned.

“It happened almost daily. When you’re welding it’s 1,500 degrees and sparks are flying everywhere,” Carpenter said. “You get used to it. I’ve got burn marks all over my body.”

Carpenter started as a work planner for Asplundh in 2011. Despite his lack of experience, he quickly caught the eye of Sarah Powell, now a region forestry supervisor for AEP Ohio.

“I noticed he was quick learner. He would take a task and run with it,” Powell said. “He was a good problem solver and was very self-motivated. You could just tell that he had the potential to do more in our organization.”

Though Carpenter, now 56, says this job is probably the last he’ll have (“I think I’m done changing”), Powell said he’s a shining example for others who have aspirations of branching out.

“It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how old you are,” she said. “You can always learn something new. You can always do something new.”

Published August 24, 2021

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