Screen Shot 2020 09 29 At 10 26 08 Pm

Spotlight on the Line Trade: Jake Wessels of Salt River Project

Sept. 30, 2020
Jake Wessels, a troubleman for SRP, enjoys meeting new people and responding to trouble calls in Arizona.
  • Born in The Free State, South Africa, and grew up on a farm near a small town called Lindley. His father worked as a farmer, and his mother worked as a baker.
  • Attended boarding school in Lindley, South Africa, before joining the military. He worked as a farmer until he was 32 years old before traveling to the United States. Once he arrived in America, he began installing fiber optic for Northern Line Layers. He later moved to Phoenix and joined Salt River Project (SRP).
  • Became a proud citizen of the United States in August 2019.
  • Maintains a small residence in Phoenix, Arizona, where he resides while working, and a farm out in Chandler Heights, Arizona, where he raises Dorper Sheep and citrus when he has time off.

Early Years
SRP hired me as a trades helper to specialize in directional drilling. After nine months, SRP decided not to pursue directional drilling as a company. My supervisor then asked me what I was interested in doing, and I responded, “climbing the poles looks cool.” SRP transferred me to a line crew as a trade’s helper, and I began to learn about the line trade. After entering the apprenticeship, I then topped out as a journeyman lineman in 2009. I now have 18 years in the line trade. 

Day in the Life
I have been a troubleman for six years. I am responsible for all of my actions every shift of every day — good or bad. The job is quick, and you are in and out. It does not take days to complete, as it may when working on a line crew. It is different each day. You may think you have seen it all, and then the next day, you are presented with a new scenario you haven’t come across before. It is not repetitive, as transmission work may be, but rather spontaneous. I like being “at the ready” and responding to as many calls as I am safely able to, as it is that many more opportunities for experience and meeting people. 

Focus on Safety
It is very rewarding being a troubleshooter, but you have to keep in mind that your job is to keep people safe. You make yourself available, go when you’re called and do as best you can as quickly as you can. Follow your training and your procedures. Do not get too emotionally involved, as that is how mistakes are made. Because we are dealing with electricity, I have to remove the hazards and help prevent any potential issues. I cannot stress enough to check and double-check everything.

Memorable Storm
In 2016, we had flooding in the Phoenix area. It brought back memories for when I was sent out from Phoenix by SRP to help with the relief efforts of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The sheer destruction that a simple element such as water can bring to people’s lives is amazing. When people are in these chaotic and terrible situations, just the littlest things and gestures can mean so much. For example, one of SRP’s customer’s homes was hit hard by the rain and mudslides. About a foot of mud covered her floors, and she had no power. Obviously, I could not get her back in power due to the damage to the house and the service. She was in a wheelchair, and I cannot forget her appreciation that I just showed up, tried to help and cared about her. 

Plans for the Future
I love my job and what I am doing. I may stay in this role until I retire, and that would be fine with me. I might move into supervision, but only if it involves troubleshooting as this is where my passion lies. I would like to look into buying land in Montana so after I retire, I can farm cattle.

 Editor’s Note: T&D World is excited to partner with Milwaukee Tool on a new sponsorship for the linemen profiled in our Lifeline department. To thank the linemen for their dedication to the line trade, Milwaukee will send a special custom tool package to each lineman profiled.

If you are interested in being profiled in our monthly Lifeline department or know of a journeyman lineman who would be a good candidate, email T&D World Field Editor Amy Fischbach at [email protected]

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of T&D World, create an account today!