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Spotlight on the Line Trade: JR Karo of Northwestern Energy

June 4, 2021
JR Karo, our June featured lineman, says his crew always strives to do their jobs right the first time.
  • Born in Nucla, Colorado, and has three brothers.
  • Has a girlfriend, Tiffani, and two daughters, 16-year-old Dylan and 14-year-old Kodi.
  • His father was a lineman in the 1970s and retired from the power plant in his hometown. His two older brothers also work as linemen: Marc is in Texas and Leif is in Colorado.
  • Enjoys the outdoors by riding his Harley or camping.
  • Can’t live without a battery-operated squeeze, which is easier on the joints and makes a better connection.
  • Will never forget passing the journeyman’s test and earning his ticket, which he considers a great milestone in his career.

Early Years
In high school, I job shadowed at a rural electric cooperative. I went to line school straight out of high school, and my first job was as a groundman with the City of Fort Collins. It was a great place to work, but I didn’t see myself staying there long term.

Day in the Life
As an electric foreman for Northwestern Energy, I oversee a four-man crew on daily jobs and reactive work. Our work days are filled with new construction jobs. From time to time, we pull off and do reactive work on our system from hit poles to bad undergrounds. We are also currently working on a multi-year capacity project in Belgrade, Montana. This is the third and final year of the project and will add capacity for many years to come. The project includes adding a circuit, changing out poles and reconductoring the existing circuit.

Challenges and Rewards
The biggest challenges are working with the customers and the company to make sure we are making the best of the time and material for the job. In the end, we want everyone to be satisfied and be proud of the work we have accomplished. The biggest accomplishment is driving by a job we have done and taking great pride in the job we do day in and day out.

Learning the Trade
We are always learning as linemen. We never take anything for granted and always learn from what we do. What teaches you the most is when you top out and realize you are calling the shots and are teaching the next ones to be great linemen.

Memorable Storms
I have been on several storms over my career. The one that stands out was a storm a few years ago in Spokane, Washington. A wind storm blew through before Thanksgiving, and we got called about a week after it hit. When we showed up, the damage didn’t look too bad until we drove back into certain neighborhoods. Huge pine trees blew over through the power lines and into houses. We spent more than a week replacing poles and restringing wire. I am always surprised at the amount of work that is done in a short amount of time.

Life as a Lineman
Going into the power industry and becoming a journeyman is very rewarding. I like to work outside in the different location and different weather conditions. It is challenging and worth the extra effort at the end of the day. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Future Plans
I am always looking for different opportunities to move forward in learning the power industry. With how fast the industry changes, it hard to say for sure what my future holds. For now, I want to keep doing the challenging jobs and doing them well.

Editor’s Note: T&D World is partnering with Milwaukee Tool for our Lifeline department. To thank the linemen for their dedication to the line trade, Milwaukee will send a 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].

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