As a 4-year-old, she had been told by her father, Tim Stadelman, to sort wire nuts on a table into piles of the same color, the reds with reds, the yellows with yellows.
After only few minutes of standing on a five-gallon bucket to reach the work table, Ellen complained that her back was hurting.
“I waited for the longest time before I said anything,” Ellen said. “It felt like I was working for the longest time.”
But the 23-year-old has grown up since then, and as Stadelman Electric celebrates 20 years in business, Ellen has joined her father’s business as an apprentice electrician for the past year.
Tim Stadelman started the business with a desire to be able to spend more time with his family, after working a job that required him to be on the road for much of the time.
Since then, he has followed his strategies for his business, which he credits for being able to make it through the most recent economic downturn.
“I try to do a good job and act in the best interest of the customers,” Tim Stadelman said. “If there is a less expensive way to do it, I will. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, it’s good business strategy.”
Since Brookings is a small town, Stadelman said reputation is important and he has worked at keeping it. He says this has allowed him to stay in business and he says he is very grateful to the community.
Tim Stadelman began working as an electrician 33 years ago, and before then he worked in construction with his father, who is a carpenter. At first, as a small child, he would tag along with his father to job sites. As he got older he would work full time in the summers with his father, and with his father’s help, he got an apprenticeship to be an electrician.
Stadelman says he was the youngest journeyman in Oregon when he became one at 22.
His daughter is breaking her own barriers too. At the end of her apprenticeship period and schooling, which lasts four years, she will become the first woman journeyman electrician in Curry County according to her instructor at Southwest Oregon Community College.
While both the construction and electrician fields continue to be dominated by males, Ellen says she hasn’t met any discrimination or opposition because she is a woman.
“Some people are surprised ... but people have been very supportive of me,” she said.
Tim has seen attitudes shift in the industry over the last 30 years: Back in the 1970s, women would have been viewed as an intruder on the job site; there is not the animosity there once was.
“If a person can do the job, it shouldn’t matter whether they are a man or woman,” Tim said.
Her father said Ellen showed an aptitude at a young age with working with electrical parts, assembling them into toys, and she started helping him work when she was 3 years old.
As an apprentice, Ellen trains in all aspects of electrical work. Also as the apprentice on the crew, she is sent in to crawl under houses and dig ditches.
Once on her birthday, she had to crawl under a house, only to find insulation hanging down, dead rats and raw sewage.
“The homeowners were pretty impressed,” Ellen said.
Twenty years is a long time for business to be around, and Tim says he is grateful to the community.
“I’d like to thank the community for the last 20 years,” he said, “Not only for providing me with the means to make a living, but also for a great place to raise a family.”