Milwaukee Tool
Tom Swayne (1)

Spotlight on the Line Trade: Tom Swayne of DTE Energy

Dec. 2, 2021
As a journeyman lineman, Tom Swayne enjoys going to work every day.
  • Born in Pontiac, Michigan, and has four sisters.
  • Married to Lynne for 35 years and has three children and three grandchildren.
  • Enjoys traveling to Europe. He and his wife just visited his youngest son who is stationed in Germany.
  • He and his International Lineman’s Rodeo teammates, name and name, won the senior’s division at the 2021 competition and placed 10th overall in the journeyman division.
  • Can’t live without the battery-powered tools and the new types of flame-retardant clothing, which is thinner, lasts longer and is better equipped for the weather.

Early Years
When I was 19 years old, I had some tree trimming experience, and my friend suggested that I try line work. I started my apprenticeship in 1987, and if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I started with contractors such as Harlan Electric through my American Line Builders Apprenticeship Training program.

In two years, at the age of 21, I topped out, and by the time I was 22, I was promoted to a leader and a foreman. Two years later, I had an eight-person crew, and at 27 years old, I worked as a general foreman. By the time I turned 30, I moved to the power company. DTE has been a great company to work for.

Day in the Life
As a journeyman lineman and apprentice crew instructor, I run a crew of 11 apprentices. It is challenging but very rewarding. Our job is to prepare them for when they get out in the field so they can be an asset to their crew. We have our apprentices do projects unique to our business so they can gain some hands-on experience.

Challenges and Rewards
Some of the challenges are safety issues and the climate and the ever-changing weather. We have had to restore power after the worst storms in Michigan’s history. The rewards are helping people and gaining their appreciation after we do a good job on storm restorations or regular work. Line work also pays well, which is very rewarding.

Safety Lesson
I lost a good friend of mine years ago. He was an apprentice, and he lost his life due to a series of mistakes. After that happened, I made the decision to be a person to stand up for those things so they wouldn’t happen again in the future.

 Memorable Storm
I’ll never forget Puerto Rico. We were there for two months. The challenges of the terrain and working in the rainforest were very memorable. It rained almost every day, the heat was excruciating. The people, however, we some of the nicest I have ever met. They had their power off for months, and it was wonderful to help them to just to get the fridge working again or get a few lights back on. Being able to help people like that was a wonderful thing.

 Career-Defining Moment
The day that I topped out was an important time for me. When you hold that journeyman ticket, it opens up a whole new world for you, and you must be prepared for the responsibilities that come with it.

Life in the Line Trade
I would definitely go into the line trade again. It has been so rewarding. About 99 percent of the time, I look forward to getting up and going to work. Not many people can say that.

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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