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Spotlight on the Line Trade: Kyle Kusser

March 31, 2023
Lead Lineman Kyle Kusser said he was made to work in the line trade and enjoys working out in the field.

Basin Electric Cooperative

  • Born in Pierre, South Dakota, and grew up in Highmore, South Dakota.
  • Married to his wife, Madee and has three children: Logan, 12; Taylor, 9; and Brody, 6.
  • Enjoys coaching youth activities and spending time with his family. He also likes hunting, fishing, boating and going to the gym.
  • Is the first lineman in his family.
  • In recent years, he says storms have been the biggest challenges. With his background in construction, however, he gets excited when he gets the call to go on storm work.

Early Years

I got into the industry sort of by chance. I went to Mitchell Technical Institute to be an electrician and graduated with my associate’s degree. Then I enrolled in the power line program for my third year. Having always loved heights, I fit in the line trade perfectly.

Day in the Life

I got my start in the contractor world building transmission lines in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I spent five years with two different contractors building line in a four-state area. It wasn’t until I met my wife and had our first child that I realized it was time to slow down and be home more. That’s when I started working as a maintenance lineman with Basin Electric in Gettysburg, South Dakota. As the lead lineman at this outpost, most of our days consist of patrols and maintenance along with routine upgrades to our structures. We also do hot stick and barehand work on 345 kV.

On the Job

Right now, we are catching up on maintenance. We spent last summer picking up what a few tornadoes tore down. Going forward, we will be installing storm structures on one of our 230 kV lines and performing structural upgrades on lattice towers. We will also be knocking out some routine hot stick jobs like tightening vibration dampers and replacing spacers on our 500 kV construction. There are always shakedowns and climbing inspections to do as well.

Tools and Technology

I will always say that a lineman’s best tool is a rope and his knowledge of how to use it. As far as new technology, I love what the electric tool industry is doing for tradesmen these days. It seems like every other week they come out with something new that will allow us to maybe age a little slower.

Safety Lesson

I’ve never lost a coworker, but I have had a few friends who were involved in incidents. My friend went down in a chopper and was the only one who survived, and I had another friend who lost his life at the end of a helicopter longline. I’ve witnessed a journeyman get locked onto a line that had induction on it. One time, I received a jolt of induction so hard it felt like taking a steel toe to the belly button. I was lucky, but I am not invincible. None of us are. Since then, I have taken induction more seriously.

Memorable Storm

’ll never forget the 2010 ice storm in Bowman, North Dakota. Everything was down in a giant swath across the state. At the time, I was working for Brink Constructors, and we were there for five weeks. In that time, crews on scene replaced more than 4,000 poles and miles upon miles of wire between from Bowman to Bismarck, North Dakota. That was the coldest I have ever been in my life. It had snowed so much that everything that was down was buried deep into the snow. Because I worked for a transmission line contractor that builds line across the Black Hills and other rugged terrain, we were more than equipped for the situation and handled it very well. We got treated like rock stars on that job, and it felt great.

Plans for the Future

When I was in school, I knew that the transmission industry was my niche. I believe I was made for it. That’s the road I chose, and I never detoured. I love all the tall towers, high tensions, big trucks, and heavy tools. I’m not sure what the future holds for me. As my kids grow up, I’ve got no problem staying right where I am. I may have interest in more of a supervisory role someday, but I feel like I have plenty more to contribute to the industry right now.

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