Steve Pirtle, Xcel Energy

July 1, 2012
Xcel Energy
  • Born in Amarillo, Texas.

  • Married to his wife, Abby, for 21 years, and has an 18-year-old daughter named Megan.

  • Views the job of a lineman as a lifestyle not just a career.

  • Others describe him as a man of dedication and integrity.

  • Enjoys playing golf, spending time with his family and helping his daughter with her horses.

  • Can't live without Klein pliers and a crescent wrench.

  • Considers the skilled labor shortage and keeping up with technology as the two most significant challenges facing the industry.

  • First visited the International Lineman's Rodeo in 1993 and considers it one of the most memorable moments of his career.

Early Years

Right out of high school, I began working for Local 602. I then went to work for L.E. Myers and spent four years in the service. My first job for Xcel Energy was in 1989 with construction services on the traveling high line crew. As a first-year apprentice, I did a little bit of everything, such as framing and setting poles. During that time, I traveled all over the service territory building and maintaining the transmission lines. Then I went to Lubbok, Texas, to become a distribution apprentice and spent 12 years there before moving to Pampa, Texas, where I became a working foreman. After eight years as a working foreman, I was promoted to supervisor II.

Day in the Life

As a supervisor II with Pampa field operations, I have many responsibilities each day. The first thing I do is line the crews out and make sure they have everything they need. I also respond to e-mails, perform crew visits and visit upcoming job sites to make sure they are ready for the linemen.

Safety Lesson

When I came into this business, I knew there was a big push on safety. The number-one thing that we went over is that we wanted everyone to go home safely at the end of the day. As a young journeyman, however, you can get overconfident and start to do things out of the box. You know that it's not right, but you push the envelope. You think that an accident will never happen to you.

For example, one time, I was watching some guys work, and they had no coverup. It was a bad place to be. I didn't say anything, and it bothers me a lot. On that day, I made a conscious decision to never let that happen again. It propelled me to be as strong on safety as I am today.

Somewhere along the line, you have to make a conscious decision to speak up for safety. At our company, we have the saying, “If you see something, then say something.”

In the Family

My grandfather was a lineman out of Local 769. During my childhood, my brother and I would spend our summers with him. He would take us to the job site, and we would have our hard hats on. Then when we got home, my brother and I would put on our hard hats, climb trees and pretend that we were linemen. After watching my grandfather work, I decided I also wanted to be a lineman. I discovered that linemen were a great group of guys, and I liked their camaraderie as well as their respect for my granddad who was running the crews. As I've gotten older, I've continued to look up to him.

Memorable Storms

I've worked on a lot of storms in my 23 years in the industry, but I'll never forget the ice storm of 1999. So many lines were down in our panhandle region, and crews and contractors worked together to put everything back up. The good thing is that the ice storm was in one day and out the next, so it started to warm up quickly. This caused a problem with mud, however, as we tried to restore the infrastructure. Anything that was feeding the local towns was gone, and it took us a few weeks to do the job. When the first wave came down here, we got power set up to the motels and water treatment plants. That way, the crews would have a place to stay as well. The good news is that everyone walked out of the storm restoration safely, which is always an accomplishment.

Plans for the Future

I've been with the company for 23 years, and I definitely would like to go to the next level in my career, which would be either as a manager or a director at Xcel Energy.

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