I left Wisconsin after completing five years of school without a degree. In 2001, I decided to seek a new path in life and moved to Arizona. One of my family friends worked for Salt River Project and informed me of a job opening as a customer service representative. I applied and was fortunate to be offered the position.
After two years, I bid and was offered a trades helper position on a line crew at our West Valley location. This was the start of what I consider the greatest career move I could have ever made. Through line work, I found what I never knew I was looking for in a career. The experience I gained from working in the field with linemen was more valuable than I could have received from any formal education.
Day in the Life
As a construction supervisor, some of my main responsibilities include ensuring our crews are safe, their concerns are addressed in a timely manner and the culture of our division centers around brotherhood.
Our work day begins with a meeting with all of our crews. We address any concerns, talk about crew make-ups and share pertinent information. Outside of required meetings, we visit our crews and ensure they are getting what they need to help them work safely and efficiently. Finally, at the end of the day, I meet with my crews to mitigate any issues they were challenged with on their jobs.
Creating a Culture of Trust
I value the relationships I build with my crews. I communicate with them daily about the job they are currently working on and how I can make it better for them. I am grateful for my current work position. I do what I can to ensure the lives of our linemen are protected and that they are given the tools they need to be successful. My career objective is to listen to the linemen, respond to their concerns and empower them to make safe decisions.
Linemen have gone through the required training and are now trained professionals. I allow them to make the decisions, and I strive to be a valuable resource they can call upon at any time.
When I was an apprentice, a lineman friend of mine made electrical contact and lost his life. The impact of this event affected his family, coworkers, the company and the industry. In our efforts to prevent future fatalities, we encourage near-miss discussions in hopes of eliminating serious accidents. By establishing a solid trusting foundation, we can keep the lines of communication open with our crews.
Our utility often experiences monsoons that create excessive wind storms. For example, one time I worked on a nine-pole blow-down, single-circuit system with multiple risers being fed out of a close substation. We were on this job for more than 18 hours and worked with multiple crews to get power restored.
In Arizona, the conditions dry up rather quickly, but at the same time, the temperatures can rise above 110°F with high humidity. Despite the challenging weather conditions, the crews worked well together. The importance of communication is so key in these situations. You need to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Life as a Lineman
I wish I knew about the utility industry earlier. My family grew up around Harley Davidsons. My father worked for Harley in its manufacturing plant, and my exposure to the utility industry was seeing power poles on the side of the road. I truly am grateful for the linemen who took the time to show me more than I could ever imagine.