T&D World Magazine

Chris Perry

  • The 32-year-old was born in Spokane, Washington.

  • He has been married for nine years to IngaTara and has a nine-year-old daughter named Caitlin.

  • Enjoys dirt biking, boating and fishing in his free time.

  • He has two brothers-in-law who are linemen. Cody Katzer works in construction, and Shaliko Katzer works for Avista in northeast Washington.

  • Enjoys hunting and fishing and plans to retire at the lake in about eight years.

Early Years

I have been in the utility industry for more than five years. Before I became a groundman for Avista, I owned a mountain bike store, Spokane Bike and Board, for eight years. Now that I'm a lineman, it's nice to not have to take work home with me and not have to worry about the troubles with the economy. I now have set hours and set pay, which is definitely a big plus.

I first became interested in line work when my brother-in-law Shaliko told me about an open position as a groundman for Avista. I filled out the application, turned it in and was then hired to assist linemen with constructing and maintaining power lines. I worked as a groundman for six months, and then I worked on a three-year apprenticeship.

I remember my first day like it was yesterday. I was so lost that I didn't even know who the apprentices or the journeyman were. They all ran circles around me. When they got done with the job, the foreman asked if I was ready to go. When I said yes, he said, “Doesn't look like it.” I turned around and the truck I was driving had every bin door open and every drawer pulled out.

Day in the Life

We do more maintenance than any other type of work. We do a lot of hot work pole changes. Our crew also has done a lot of reconductor distribution and 115-kV and 230-kV work. We have between three to five people on my crew, and we cover the greater part of northeast Washington. We usually work from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., but we are always welcome to sign up to do overtime. On the weekends, we can sign up for what's called a short list, so if there is an emergency, my utility can get linemen to help out and respond to the situation more quickly.

Rewards and Challenges

My biggest reward is teaching apprentices. It feels good to take the time to teach someone something that you learned along the way and give them different tools to get through their career. Another benefit of line work is the opportunity to work overtime, but one of the drawbacks is having to terminate underground wire.

Safety Lessons

We've always been taught not to be in the way of something that goes wrong. For example, if something were to break, we try not to be in the line of fire. We learned this lesson first-hand when our crew was cutting fallen trees off some three phase and a pole top suddenly broke out. Had the foreman not told the grunt to move out of the way, the wire would have taken his head off.

Working Storms

In the winter of 2006, a storm knocked out power to several mountain communities around Wallace, Idaho. We were building a road to a broken pole up a steep mountainside with a CAT bulldozer. We winched our snow cat up when the winch broke. My buddy almost went backward off a cliff but ended up in a tree.

Favorite Project

The project that stands out the most in my mind is going to Othello, Washington, with a couple of crews. We changed out highline arms and insulators. The linemen played tricks on one another, and many of our supplies flew out of a truck while we were driving on a bumpy road. At the end of the long day, we got together and laughed at all of the experiences we shared on the work site.

Linemen Brotherhood

I would have done line work sooner, if I knew now what I didn't know then. The pay and the adventure have made it all worthwhile. Also, I couldn't do it without my fellow linemen, who have become friends. When I was sick with testicular cancer, everyone helped me to get through that tough time. I work with the best group of guys, and I would give them the shirt off my back if they needed it.

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