Todd Irby

Nov. 1, 2008
Duke Energy
  • Born in Gastonia, North Carolina.

  • Married for nine years to his wife, Crystal, who he met in college. They have a son, Cole, and a daughter, Keegan.

  • Enjoys camping with his family and weight lifting.

  • Describes himself as confident, likeable and a good talker. His coworkers would describe him as an energetic person who gets along with everyone.

  • His favorite boss is Dean Tadlock, a line technician coordinator at the operations center, because he takes care of his employees and understands workers' needs. His favorite coworkers are Eric Melton and Matt Norton, who are both distribution line technicians and served on his Lineman's Rodeo team.

Family Ties

I grew up around line work. My father, who passed away three years ago from lymphoma, worked for 28 years for Duke Energy as a "straw boss" or crew leader. When I was a kid, I would watch him do line work and go out on calls with him. It was very exhilarating. I was amazed to see my dad climb poles, and I thought a bucket truck was the biggest thing in the world. When I got to ride in it, I could see for miles.

Early Years

After I graduated from high school, I went to college and played football. At first, I wanted to pursue a career as a state trooper, so I studied criminal justice at Methodist College in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Instead of going into the police force, however, I accepted a full-time job as a locator for the City of Gastonia Electrical Co-op. I worked for the co-op for three-and-a-half-years, and I have spent the last eight years at Duke Energy.

A Day in the Life

Our crew begins the day at 7:30 a.m. and wraps up at 3:30 p.m., unless there is a storm. We do a lot of state highway and road-widening projects and redo many existing lines, build new lines and modernize circuits coming from substations.

Safety Lesson

I had a friend who was electrocuted on a 44-kV line and was killed on the spot eight years ago. He worked for Pike Electric, one of Duke's contractors. I learned that no matter what you assume is grounded may not be grounded. I also discovered how important it is to wear personal protective equipment. If my friend had been wearing rubber gloves and overshoes rather than leather gloves, he might be here today. His death drove home the lesson that anything can happen at any time, so I always need to be prepared — not just because I might get in trouble, but because it could save my life.

Storm Work

I went to New Orleans, Louisiana, for Hurricane Katrina a week after the storm hit, and I was down there for 28 days. Some of the people in the town would bring us jambalaya and gumbo even if they didn't have electricity. When we got the power back on for them, they would jump up and cheer. There's nothing like the feeling of helping people out.

Competing in the Rodeo

I competed in the International Lineman's Rodeo for the second time this year, and we took 36th place overall. Events included the speed climb, hurtman rescue and two mystery events. It was exciting to meet people from all over the world and see how they do line work. I think it also makes us safer workers because you learn about things that you are not supposed to do. Also, Duke Energy has a policy that if you are written up, you can't go to the rodeo, which makes it safer all the way around.

Worker Shortage

One major challenge in the utility industry today is the shortage of workers. When my 4-year-old son turns 20, there will probably be half the number of linemen we have right now. To get young children interested in the line trade, we could have traveling electric shows and show video clips from the International Lineman's Rodeo. By getting this video into high schools, we could show young people an interesting career.

Looking Down the Road

I would definitely be a lineman if I had to do it all over again. I love my job and love being outside. I meet a lot of interesting people, and the guys in the field would do anything for me. In the future, I would like to build a house, open a gym/indoor sports complex, watch my kids grow up and live life to the fullest. Right now, however, I enjoy line work, and I'm young, so I have a lot of good years left in me.

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