This March We Celebrate Joel Tebo’s 40 Years at Relay!
Updated: Apr 11
“Joel’s been a member of the Relay family for 40 years. Wow!” said janitorial trainer Mike Best, one of Joel’s long-time colleagues and friend. “Two things I really admire about Joel are his dedication to Relay and his sense of humor. Joel always brings a smile to my face every time I see him.”
Joel, who celebrated this milestone anniversary in March, has brightened many lives in his 40 years at Relay. That dedication and sense of humor came across in our interview with him.
This is an incredible milestone for you, to reach 40 years. How did you get started with the organization?
Joel: It’s amazing, right? I started with Relay right out of high school, in the fall of 1981. At that time, the home office was off Powell in Southeast Portland, and my training was in a trailer, like a portable classroom.
I began by doing assembly work, then I was encouraged to go into janitorial and moved to what they called Phase 2 training at the 511 federal building in downtown Portland. (This building is now the Pacific Northwest College of Art.) My first work site was a state office building on 122nd. I rode a bicycle then, hadn’t even started driving yet, so my dad would drop me off with my bike and I would ride home. John Murphy (the former president of PHC) was my boss, and I remember he showed me where I could store my bike.
Joel has worked at about every type of site Relay serves. In the fall of 1985, he transferred to the old federal courthouse in downtown Portland, where he worked for more than a decade. After that, he went to Portland State for close to seven years. Joel then worked at Lincoln High School (a Portland Public Schools contract), before joining the night shift at PDX. He transferred from PDX to the Air National Guard center for a few years, then went back and forth between PDX and the Guard center for more than a decade. He’s also had stints at several other sites including the 9-1-1 call center, the county Animal Shelter, the Gresham probation office, and the Rockwood Medical Clinic. Joel currently works the swing shift at the City of Portland’s Emergency Coordination Center.
“I think I can say I know Portland pretty well by now!” he laughs. “And I’m glad I drive now!”
You've seen not only changes in different work roles, but you've seen the changes from what was Portland Rehabilitation Center to Relay Resources and our culture of love. How has that affected you?
Joel: It was a big change, and it’s been good. I really like my supervisor Guillermo (Guerra) – he’s very caring and easy to talk to. And I really like Jason Wilkey (Relay’s Accommodations & Compliance Supervisor), who calls me every week to find out how I’m doing – he's very nice and caring too.
Another good thing is that we have Je Kennedy to help with resources. Je has told me about resources that have helped me and my family. I appreciate all the things Relay has done for me over the years, and all the help. I’ve felt the culture of love and I can count on Relay always.
Do you have a special memory from over the years?
Joel: Back in the spring of 2001, when I was working at Portland State, Relay flew me and a group of employees and leaders to Reno, Nevada for a conference for several days. It was a really nice experience, and everything was paid for … except for some gambling, but that wasn’t me! I thought it was fabulous! It’s a fond memory. I received a special decal that I still have in my window. I’m the only one from that group who’s still at Relay.
After 40 years with Relay, are you thinking about retiring soon?
Joel: I think I'll just keep going as long as I can because I enjoy the people, and I enjoy being out in the world and keeping busy. It helps me a lot to keep busy. There was a time when I wasn’t working because of COVID, and I got real stir crazy. I'm thinking I'm going to try to hang on another 10 years, if I can. I have some issues with my legs and feet after 40 years, but I feel pretty healthy. I think I can manage the work without any problems.
At this stage of your career, what about your work gives you the most satisfaction?
Joel: I take pride in my work. And I enjoy interacting with people. Being around people makes me feel good. And I’m glad I can help my mom – she’s almost 92. Because I work the swing shift, and I have weekends off now, I can help her get to doctor appointments, grocery shopping, chores around the house, and other stuff. Mom’s proud of where I’m at now too.
And I’ve made a lot of good friends over the years, like Scott Martin at PDX and Mike Best. Mike’s been very kind and very good to me, he’s given me job coaching and training to help me succeed. I’m glad to have him in my life. And I like all the people I work with. Relay’s been very good to me.