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Ralph Rizzo

Oct. 15, 2013
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Has two grown children. His daughter lives in Missouri, so she goes to the International Lineman’s Rodeo to support his team. His son would like to become a lineman. Enjoys motorcycling, four-wheeling, hunting, amateur radio, skiing, camping and volunteering. Describes himself as outgoing, hardworking, conscientious, meticulous and thorough. His coworkers describe him as fair and honest, and he always has their best interest in mind. Can’t live without his Swiss Army knife, Tic Tracer, battery-operated press and cordless tools. Took first place at the Montana Lineman’s Rodeo.

Early Years

My interest in the line trade dates back to when I was a young boy. I remember watching linemen working on the poles in my neighborhood and that got me interested in the electrical field. As a teenager, I worked at an electrical supply company and that furthered my interest.

In 1977, I started reading meters in Center City, Philadelphia, for Philadelphia Electric Co. (now PECO Energy). I loved the challenge because most of the meters were indoors so it involved a lot of timing to get the job done.

Day in the Life

I enjoy the diversity and challenges that every new day brings. After we stretch in the morning, I prioritize the work that needs to be accomplished and balance manpower to fit the need. Then it’s time to do paperwork, meet with employees, customers and crews, and to make a lot of phone calls.

Upgrading the System

Like all utilities, we are investing in the replacement of aging infrastructure. Our local division is spending more than $14 million over the next five years as part of a distribution system infrastructure project. This will encompass replacement on more than 4,500 overhead poles, various underground cable replacements as well as natural gas upgrades.

Safety Lesson

 I learned my safety lesson when we were replacing a transformer. My coworker pulled on a piece of #6 solid copper that was in tubing, and the tail of conductor cut diagonally across the surface of my glasses. After examining the deep cut on the lens, I was glad I had my personal protective equipment in place.

Memorable Storm

I was out working in a vicious lightning storm with Bill Pratt. I had just closed the cutout to restore power to a tap when I turned around to see if the lights came back on, and in that instance, lightning hit the line just down the road from us, tripping the circuit. What a flash!

I’ll also never forget when we did storm work in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for Duke Energy in December 2002.

Challenges and Rewards

Hostility toward the coal industry is a concern for generation plants. And environmental impact on the landscape is a hurdle for America’s transmission infrastructure. Finally, in the next few years, a high turnover of well-trained linemen will cause staffing challenges for the electric distribution sector.

It’s a challenge to meet the customers’ expectations. When I know they’re happy, I walk away with a great sense of pride.

Life as a Lineman

After working as a meter reader, credit representative, fleet mechanic, mobile maintenance for generation, dispatcher, and a lineman, I feel the power industry has something for everybody. Being a lineman and teaching the trade, however, is the best of all of these positions.

I can’t think of a better trade to work in. The friendships and camaraderie that you experience during your career are unbeatable, and teamwork is really defined.

Plans for the Future

In the future, I plan to keep learning as much as I can about the trade and to pass on my knowledge to those who seek it. The opportunity to instruct and teach new apprentices and troublemen is something that exhilarates me.

I also enjoy any project that is technical, and the more complex, the better. Anything that involves a paradigm shift intrigues me.

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