2007-10-11 / Front Page

Turning on the community for 25 years

By Sam Bari

The crew at Jack's Electric celebrates 25 years At rear, from left, Jack Brittain, Mike Cozzens, Mike Jorge, and Brian Gallo. In front are Mary Brittain, Julie Swistak, Jay Brittain, and John Bellion. Photo by Sam Bari The crew at Jack's Electric celebrates 25 years At rear, from left, Jack Brittain, Mike Cozzens, Mike Jorge, and Brian Gallo. In front are Mary Brittain, Julie Swistak, Jay Brittain, and John Bellion. Photo by Sam Bari Jack's Electric is celebrating 25 years of keeping the community plugged in, turned on, and connected to the national grid. After working two jobs for eight years, Jack Brittain founded Jack's Electric with wife, Mary, in 1982.

Now, the family-owned business has five licensed electricians and one apprentice. Collectively, they offer more than 100 years of experience in the trade. Mary runs the office with recently married daughter, Julie Swistak, and the crew of eight comprises one of the most successful electrical contracting companies in the state.

"I've been involved in the electrical trade for 38 years," Brittain said. "Thirtytwo have been in Jamestown, and it's been very rewarding," he added. "I have the privilege of having two of the most experienced and knowledgeable electricians in the state working for the company. Mike Cozzens has been an electrician for 30 years and John Bellion has been practicing the trade for even longer than 30 years. Along with my son, Jay, Mike Jorge, and Brian Gallo, I couldn't ask for a better crew."

Working as much as 18 hours a day in the electrical business isn't all that Brittain has done since he has lived in Jamestown. He joined the volunteer fire department in 1975 and has been a member ever since. Brittain has also been a strong supporter of youth athletic programs and has made many friends while being involved with adult softball.

He said that one of his greatest joys was watching so many young people in the community grow up. He also mentioned that he has learned a lot about local history from the seniors who have hired him over the years. "Some of their stories were truly remarkable," Brittain reminisced. "If I didn't work for them, I never would have had the opportunity to hear those stories. And hearing them talk about the old days, before bridges connected the island to the mainland - that has been a real privilege."

Brittain has been involved in the community in many more ways. He was active with the Lions Club for eight years, and was the town electrical inspector from 1992 to 2000. "Being a Chamber of Commerce member and a volunteer firefighter has helped us maintain our involvement in community business and events," Brittain said.

"I also enjoyed constructing the community playground and helping with the lighting of the town recreation center. Those were opportunities for us to give back to the community that has given us so much," he continued. "For us, the involvement in the community helped our business grow both in Jamestown and throughout the state."

Brittain also said that not everyone who lives here has the opportunity to work here. He credits people in the community with helping his company earn its reputation outside of Jamestown. "The reputation we have worked so hard to build was done by word of mouth," he said. "We advertised minimally over the years. Most of our promotional efforts involved sponsoring athletic events and local organizations. Being involved in the community has definitely helped to increase our business statewide."

In addition to Jack's Electric, Brittain owns a fire alarm business that services over 100 accounts in Jamestown, Newport, West Warwick, North Kingstown, and Middletown. The alarm company is on call around the clock, every day of the year.

When asked about how he got started, Brittain reflected on his years in the Navy. "I was in naval aviation from 1968 to '72," he said.

Before I got out, I was involved in

program called Project Transition. It helped orient military personnel for civilian life. That's where I learned about electricity."

After he was honorably discharged from the Navy, he went to work for Bond's Electric, and he and Mary got married in 1973. Then he was hired by Electric Boat in Quonset, where he was a supervisor for eight years. He wired computerized industrial equipment, submarine control panels, and even designed welding equipment.

During his tenure at Electric Boat, his son Jay was born in 1976, and daughter Julie in 1978. He also acquired his Rhode Island electrical license. It was then that he decided to open an electrical contracting business of his own.

"By this time we were living in Jamestown, and there was defi- nitely a need for an electrician, so Mary and I established Jack's Electric, Inc. in 1982. I'll never forget, I went into business without much more than a bag of tools," Brittain said.

"Our motto back then was 'No job too big or too small,' and it hasn't changed since," he said. "If it wasn't for the small jobs, the big jobs would have never come our way. Back then, we were grateful for all of them."

Brittain's son, Jay, joined the business in 1997, and daughter Julie came on board in 2003. "They plan on continuing the business when we retire," Brittain said. But retiring isn't something he thinks about too much.

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