Sixth District International Vice President Paul Noble, a longtime IBEW leader in his home state of Illinois, has been appointed international secretary-treasurer. He began his duties Jan. 4.
Noble replaces Kenneth W. Cooper, who was appointed international president following the retirement of Lonnie R. Stephenson. Both moves were made and unanimously approved by the International Executive Council.
The secretary-treasurer serves as the IBEW’s chief financial officer and oversees its many health, benefit and pension funds. He also is the chief adviser to the international president.
“Whenever he’s been called to serve the Brotherhood, Paul Noble always said yes,” Cooper said. “He’s worked closely with all our branches and partners and has experience running large pension funds. He’s ideally qualified for this role, and I welcome him and his wife, Gina, to Washington, D.C.”
The appointment capped off a busy seven months for Noble, a former business manager at West Frankfort, Ill., Local 702.
He was appointed and took over as Sixth District vice president April 1 following the retirement of David J. Ruhmkorff. Six weeks later, the Sixth District hosted the International Convention in Chicago, where Noble was reelected to a five-year term. In June, he and Gina welcomed their first grandchild, Adeline.
By January, he had moved to the nation’s capital and the International Office to begin his new duties.
“I was surprised,” Noble said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve had several conversations with Coop not only about the position but really sharing his vision. We think alike. I’m just excited knowing what he wants to do.
“I know we’re in a better place because of Lonnie’s service,” Noble added. “We’re in a better place because of what he accomplished.”
Noble and Cooper have been close friends and worked together for more than 25 years. Noble was a young organizer for Local 702 and he met Cooper — then the business manager of Mansfield, Ohio, Local 688 — for the first time at an IBEW conference in Dallas in 1995, he said.
“It’s just fun when you go to events like that to be around people who are like-minded and want to do whatever they can to move the Brotherhood forward,” Noble said. “That was what Kenny was all about. It wasn’t about assigning blame for past mistakes. It was, ‘What can I do to make things better?'”
Stephenson brought Noble onto the Sixth District staff in 2010, when Stephenson was the district’s vice president. Noble later served as the district’s desk representative under Ruhmkorff.
“There’s a lot of people who would have done a fine job,” Ruhmkorff said of Noble’s secretary-treasurer appointment. “The IBEW is blessed with a lot of talent.
“But Paul is very qualified, and I couldn’t be happier for him and the IBEW. I’ve known Paul since he was a service rep for his local and I was the international representative servicing it. He wasn’t even the business manager yet. We go back a long, long time and we’ve developed a deep relationship. I think the only thing Paul cares for more than the IBEW is his family, but he knows the IBEW and its work is what takes care of his family.”
Noble, 56, was born in Granite City, Ill., a St. Louis suburb. Robert Noble, his father, was a journeyman wireman and member of St. Louis Local 1. The younger Noble worked summers as a material handler and stock boy before graduating from high school and attending classes at the ITT Technical Institute.
He briefly worked as a telecom service technician for Contel, where he was part of a unit represented by Local 702. It was then that Noble decided to apply for the local’s wireman apprenticeship program and he became a member in 1990.
He served on numerous Local 702 committees, including the pension committee and the health and welfare committee, and was brought on staff full time as an organizer in 1996.
“I would volunteer for anything,” he said. “If they had a picket, I’d walk the picket line. Any volunteer project, the Labor Day parade, I was always involved.”
Serving Local 702, which has members across a large swath of southern Illinois and a few utility members in southeast Missouri, provided Noble with a breadth of experience few leaders can match. The majority of the local’s nearly 5,000 members work in utility, but it has members in every IBEW branch except Railroads.
Noble was elected business manager in 2006. In addition to construction organizing, he negotiated contracts for municipal and utility employees, nurses and even employees of a publicly owned golf course. He negotiated a collective bargaining agreement with Ameren Illinois, the state’s second-largest publicly-owned utility, while he served as chairman of Utility System Council U-5. That council includes three other Illinois local unions besides 702: Springfield Local 51, Collinsville Local 309 and Alton Local 649.
“As business manager, he was engaged with everyone — utility members, manufacturing groups, line clearance,” Stephenson said last year when Noble was promoted to district vice president. “It didn’t matter. He was a hands-on leader and very well respected in his local. That’s why when I was appointed vice president of the Sixth District, I asked Paul to come on staff.”
Ruhmkorff also noted Noble was a trustee and active participant in the administration of the Decatur Fund, a multi-state health and welfare/pension fund with more than 30,000 participants. The fund services 19 local unions in four states on the health and welfare side and 12 local unions on the pension side.
“He has experience making sure we spend our money wisely and ensuring our members and their families can retire with dignity,” Ruhmkorff said.
Throughout his career, Noble has been active in major political wins for working families. He was among the labor leaders who successfully convinced the Illinois legislature to pass the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, a plan for the state to transition to power generation methods that help prevent climate change while also supporting good jobs and historically overlooked communities.
Last year, he was part of the charge that persuaded Illinois’ voters to pass the Workers’ Rights Amendment, which added to the state’s constitution language that bans so-called right-to-work laws, which allow employees to enjoy the benefits of a collectively bargained union contract without paying membership fees.
Noble and his wife have two daughters: Jayci Costello who is Adeline’s mother, and Jasmine. His brother, Russell, is a member of St. Louis Local 1. A nephew, Russell Jr., is a journeymen wireman out of Local 702.
The new secretary-treasurer expects his transition into the role to be a smooth one, noting that he’s been traveling to Washington regularly as part of his duties for more than two decades. He is a graduate of the Meany Center at the National Labor College, which was in nearby Silver Spring, Md., prior to its closure in 2014.
Closer to home, Noble served as president of the Southern Illinois Central Labor Council and as an officer for southern Illinois’ Egyptian Building Trades.
The officers and staff congratulate Brother Noble and his family and wish him much success in his new position.