Kris Onda says one of the best attributes of his job is being there for the cooperative’s members and supplying them with electricity.

Spotlight on the Line Trade: Kris Onda

Jan. 31, 2023
Kris Onda says one of the best attributes of his job is being there for the cooperative’s members and supplying them with electricity.

CORE Electric Cooperative

  • Born in Silver City, New Mexico.
  • Married to his wife, Marcia, and has a three-year-old son, Kyle.
  • Enjoys hunting, being outdoors and going fast in hot rods like Mustangs. He also enjoys showing his son the world and giving him new experiences.
  • Can’t live without his hooks and an extendo stick.
  • Competed at the International Lineman’s Rodeo.
  •  Is the first one in his family to work in the trade.

Early Years

As I was finishing my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and policing, I worked maintenance on conveyor belts for Freeport McMoRan in Morenci, Arizona. At that point in time, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go into law enforcement or stay working on the belt lines. I learned about line work from a journeyman lineman I met at a get-together with friends. He told me that while it’s not an easy job, if you like climbing high, working hard and feeling accomplishment at the end of the day, it’s the job for you. With some prior experience, I was able to land an entry position on the line crew. The adrenaline from climbing a 110-ft pole, being 200 ft up in the air over a benched high wall in the pit of the mine working on power lines or hauling poles around the giant haul trucks in the mine was so intense.

Day in the Life

I am a second-step apprentice for CORE in Conifer, Colorado, and I am responsible for getting parts stocked up on the trucks, icing up the coolers and keeping equipment and vehicles cleaned up and ready to roll. On a typical day, we set new poles, hang transformers or respond to outages. We are also upgrading our system with wildlife and fire mitigation equipment and replacing old equipment, hardware and insulating wire to try and keep everything as reliable and safe as possible.

Challenges and Rewards

The major challenges of my job consist mostly of terrain and weather. In our service territory, some houses are built on the steep mountains, and mixed with 75 mph winds, trees, snow, ice, and the public, you never know what might happen. The rewards always come through when you can get the members' power back on. I remember one time we had a big storm hit and had a couple thousand people out of power. We responded to a single outage down this dirt road in the forest. When we started clearing the trees from the service wire and respliced the broken phase, an older gentleman came out to say thank you. His oxygen would have run out had the power been off any longer. It felt good to know we really helped him out.

 Safety Lesson

Job site safety has always been important to me and my coworkers, but it wasn’t something that really hit home until I had my son. The importance of him growing up with a dad and being able to be there for him every step of the way has really shaped my safety culture now. I want to be the best dad I can be and getting home every day to him is where it starts. I always try to think about the outcome of every move, and I am not afraid to ask for help or stop a job if I feel it is unsafe.

 Memorable Storm

My most memorable storm memory was when 18 in. of snow fell in Colorado, and we worked all night to get the power back on. A tree fell on top of a power line, and I had to tread through the snow into the fast-moving shallow river to cut the tree out of the line. Fuses were blowing all over the place due to the snow load, and trees were falling on lines and snapping poles. Our office plus linemen from three districts worked together to get our members back on as soon as possible.

Plans for the Future

I look back and think about if I had only gone into the power industry sooner. When I was graduating from high school, everyone was so set on pushing kids into college and getting a degree. I never heard about trade schools, and if I would have gone straight into line work, I would be a lot further in my career. I hope to one day go into management and learn the other side of the operations, but that’s many years down the road. I have had many great mentors, and this trade is filled with so many good people who only want you to succeed. The camaraderie and relationships you build will last a lifetime. This field isn’t easy and having the support from everyone makes a huge difference.

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