I grew up on my family cattle ranch located on the Missouri River in central South Dakota. I enjoyed working outside, whether I was fencing, chopping open water holes in the winter for cattle watering, calving out heifers, branding calves or baling hay. I feel like my ranching knowledge has helped me to work with the landowners and customers, because as a lineman, you not only have to work outside in all the weather elements to keep the lights on, but you also have to be able to work with the landowners and understand their culture.
I first started in the line industry during the summers of my high school years, when I was working for a local powerline contractor. I later graduated from powerline school in Bismarck, North Dakota, found a job in Phoenix, Arizona, and completed the line apprenticeship program.
During my line career, I have worked for several different utilities: Moreau Grand Electric (REA), Salt River Project, Ottertail Power Co. and Black Hills Power and Light. I have been employed with Western Area Power Administration for last 19 years, but I have been in the line utility profession since 1979.
Day in the Life
As a journeyman lineman, I help to construct and maintain power lines and deliver service to customers via powerline maintenance and repair. I work with a five-man crew on a daily basis and also work on multiple crew projects throughout Western’s service territory. Many of my days and nights are spent away from home traveling to various job sites.
In my current role, I must overcome obstacles to solve problems, focus on safety leadership, and have accountability to the crew team to ensure that everyone is safe. We work on various tower heights, ranging up to 120 ft, on lattice steel and H-frame wood structures.
During my career, I have worked in several memorable storms. I’ll never forget when I saw a piece of straw that was stuck straight through a wood pole following the 1993 tornado in eastern South Dakota. Sixteen years later, there was an ice storm that caused devastation to the Boot Hill section of southeastern Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee, and every wood pole hit the ground; we worked for 39 days straight.
At Western, I have been involved in several different safety leadership positions. For example, I chaired the Upper Great Plains (UGP) Safety and Occupational Health Committee, and I currently serve as a regional fall protection coordinator in charge of 14 fall protection trainers. In this role, I work with a small group of field professionals to oversee changes and safety manual rewrites, implement the deployment of new equipment and help with the Train-the-Trainer program.
Hardening the System
We have a 10-year infrastructure plan for rebuilding sections of our power system. We will rebuild 20-mile sections on our 115-kV and 230-kV wood pole H-frame structure lines on a yearly basis until the entire line has been completely upgraded. The rebuilds usually require upgrades from 115-kV to 230-kV framing. We are currently working on four lines every year in different areas of the UGP region, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Iowa.
Plans for the Future
I enjoy my career in the electrical industry. After I retire, I still plan to be involved in line work as a consultant or trainer. I am passionate about fall protection and helping people learn how the new equipment can keep everyone safer.