• Raised on his grandfather’s farm in Beaumont, Texas; moved to Georgia his senior year of high school.
• His great-grandfather, Oscar Shinn, retired from Arkansas Power & Light.
• Married to his wife for 10 years and has four children.
• Enjoys tending to his cows and chickens with his children.
• When he’s not working, he likes to hunt, fish, work out at the gym, or spend time with his family.
• Can’t live without his lineman’s wrench, channel locks, side cutters, a knife, and battery-operated tools.
My utility career can be summed up in one phrase: Mama knows best. When I was 19, my mom suggested I apply for a contractor position. Nine years later, I was hired on by Cobb EMC, and I’m still here.
Day in the Life
As a 1st Class Lineman-Step 2, I’m a journeyman lineman and a crew leader on overhead construction. I’m currently working on a road-widening project, and we’re changing out poles all along the road. We serve more than 9000 miles of line; 72% of which is underground. In my current role, I assist the crews with detailed job briefings, get protection on the lines and help the foreman ensure all work is done as safely as possible. Our motto is “the need to complete a job efficiently should never take priority over the need to perform it safely.” I also help with training to help keep up positivity and build confidence among the team.
Technology in the Field
Cobb EMC’s distribution system is equipped with advanced technologies — AMI, SCADA, GIS, OMS and distribution automation — that effectively detect and isolate faults and restore power to the healthy line sections. During storms, most of our outages are caused by tree issues, so we proactively trim trees along our primary lines for proper clearance. We also have deployed arrestors to protect our lines from lightning strikes.
I consider myself lucky to have two families. I have my wife and four children, and I have my co-op family. We’re brothers and sisters out here. We spend a great deal of time together, and it’s made us close. We look after one another. We laugh and give each other a hard time, but we’re always there to offer help when it’s needed and give praise when it’s deserved.
Challenges and Rewards
When you’re working storms, the hours are long and you’re tired. I keep pressure on myself to stay alert every single second. The risks are too high to lose focus. Interaction with our members in the field is always rewarding. We’ve had families come outside to say thank you. Others have cheered that we made their day. I even had one woman sing to our crew as we were working.
Years ago at rodeo practice, a teammate cut out on the pole. He wasn’t able to cut back in, and watching him fall is one of those things that sticks with you. Since then, we’ve improved our fall protection, and you’ll never see me without mine.
After Hurricane Ivan, several of our crews went down to the Alabama coast to help Baldwin EMC with relief efforts. It was total destruction. Back then, we were still working 16- to 18- hour days, and we stayed nearly 15 days. The visual that sticks with me is of our bucket trucks lined up and down the beach with destroyed hotels behind them. One day, we ate lunch sitting on the concrete base of what used to be a hotel. I was young, and the trip left an impression on me.
When I was an apprentice and won my first International Lineman’s Rodeo event in Kansas City, they rolled out the red carpet. The entire length of the walk to the stage, the spotlight shines down on you. The first time on the stage at the rodeo is so memorable. That will stick with me forever. Our rodeo program helps keep safety number one. There’s a noticeable difference in our apprentices once they’ve gone through the training. When I coached the International Lineman’s Rodeo apprentice team in 2015, I got to understand the pride that my apprentice coaches felt. That year, I was standing beside my old coach, watching one of my apprentices walk up and receive his award. I was more excited than he was!
Life as a Lineman
I feel like I was born to do this. I want to continue to be successful and keep growing and learning. I want to be a foreman. I want to see how high I can get.
Do you know of a lineman, foreman, or field superintendent who we can profile in an upcoming Lifeline department? If so, please email Amy Fischbach, Field Editor.