- Born in Paris, France, his mother’s hometown. His father was in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in France and then in Scotland, where his brother, Allen, was born. Later, his family moved to his father’s hometown of Jones, Alabama.
- Married to his wife, Connie, for 36 years and has three children and seven grandchildren.
- Has two uncles who worked as journeymen linemen and a son who is a journeyman lineman for a local for-profit power company.
- Enjoys helping others, gardening, and writing short stories.
- Can’t live without his work iPad, which contains the digital map of his cooperative’s system, and his infrared camera.
I was looking for a more stable work environment, and one of my friends advised me to speak with the district manager for the electric cooperative. After having a 30-minute conversation with him, I went by the co-op’s main office the next day and filled out paperwork to become an apprentice lineman. During my apprenticeship, I had a variety of daily assignments from building lines to cutting rights-of-ways to collecting payments.
Day in the Life
As a line inspector, I perform visual, sound and infrared inspections on the mechanical equipment within the substations and on our three-phase lines. I use the infrared camera on transformers, regulators, breakers, switches, and lightning arrestors, and I perform maintenance on the equipment and poles. It takes about six months to inspect the 24 substations and all the three-phase lines within the 3,400 square miles of our service territory. I also pull after-hours call within our operations group every seven weeks.
Challenges and Rewards
One of the challenges of working in this industry is integrating more and more technology into my work procedures. The greatest reward is knowing that what I do—especially when I’m restoring power—helps people. It gets really hot in Alabama in the summer, and on those days when the heat index gets to 104 degrees or higher, air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury.
After working on the job for about five years, my crew was restoring power following a hurricane. We had already worked some very long hours and we received another call. By this time we were fatigued and we were not properly communicating about the work procedures, and I didn’t ask enough questions. The journeyman lineman then climbed the pole and made contact, and the electricity entered his hand and blew out his knee. Although he was injured, he came back to work after several months of recovery. From that experience, I learned that asking questions and having clear communications are more important than making assumptions. I also learned that as linemen, we must double-check ourselves and one another. That’s not a mark of weakness, but rather a sign of accountability and trust.
In March of 1993, we experienced a massive snowstorm in central Alabama. Normally, by mid-March, we’re wearing shorts and flip flops, but this blizzard hit us hard. In fact, it was termed Alabama’s greatest snowstorm in history. During its 24-hour fury, we had hurricane-force winds in the higher elevations, and we received 13 to 24 in. of snow in various places. Our crews were called out that night around 10 p.m., and we began restoring power as best as we could even though the outages greatly outpaced the repairs. We also didn’t have the protective clothing for such weather since we are not used to blizzards in Alabama. For much of our working hours, which totaled 24 to 28 hours, we were cold. We worked in wet clothes and boots, and we didn’t have enough hot coffee.
I’ve really enjoyed the international projects that I’ve been a part of, first in Guatemala and then in Haiti. As a military kid, I lived in a lot of countries in Europe and the Middle East and learned to appreciate many cultures. But as an adult, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to travel much. NRECA International and my co-op have given me that opportunity—once again—to experience travel and enjoying people of other cultures.
I consider the experiences I’ve had in Guatemala and Haiti to be among the richest blessings of my life. Meeting people of other cultures, working with them, helping improve their quality of life, and best of all, making new friends is more than I could have imagined. Seeing the reaction from parents and their children the first time they turned on a lightbulb in their house was exciting.
Life as a Lineman
If I had to live my life over again, I would definitely go into the power industry. I’ve tried to learn from all of my experiences—the good ones and even the bad ones. But I guess what it comes down to, in my opinion, is that you can’t beat a lineman’s life!
Plans for the Future
I’ve got a few more years of work ahead of me, and for that time, I’d like to be a part of some more international projects. When I retire, I want to go back to school because I love learning, and I also want to spend time on mission trips.