April 18 is Lineman Appreciation Day, and in honor of these hardworking individuals, we sat down and spoke with apprentice lineman Ben McLemore and lead lineman Jeremy Henderson about the principles of the job.
How long have you been working as a lineman and how long have you been with Joe Wheeler EMC?
McLemore: I worked as a contractor for three years and I’ve been with Joe Wheeler EMC for nine months. I’m in the apprenticeship program now with IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers).
Henderson: 19 years and I’ve spent all those years working for Joe Wheeler EMC.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a lineman?
McLemore: Just being able to work outside. Plus, I really enjoy the work. I got to meet some of the guys from Joe Wheeler EMC awhile back and that influenced me to get into the climbing school at Calhoun Community College and get on with a contractor.
Henderson: I was 30 when I became a lineman, so I got into it kind of late. I worked commercial construction before that and grew up on a farm before that and I knew I could succeed at this job because I had developed a strong work ethic from doing construction and farm work. Helping the community is very important to me, so I’ve been extremely blessed to work this job.
If you were speaking with someone interested in this field, what would you tell them?
McLemore: There’s going to be some days where you don’t go home. It’s a little bit strenuous, both physically and mentally, but for the most part it is a good job and there’s good rewards from it.
Henderson: I tell kids if they don’t want to go to college, they can make a really good living working as a lineman. It’s a dangerous job though. They told me when I hired in, “You’re not allowed to make a mistake.” Because, usually when you make a mistake, you’re dead. You can’t take anything for granted in this line of work. So, that’s why I tell the kids they can make a really good living, but there’s a reason they pay you that kind of money.
On March 3, our service areas in Morgan and Lawrence County witnessed storms and high wind gusts of over 70 mph which resulted in thousands of our members losing power, some going without power until the afternoon of March 5 when we were able to restore power.
McLemore: When the outages started Friday (Mar. 3), I was working out in Mt. Hope. The outages were happening everywhere. There were a whole lot of trees that fell on power lines, even all the way to Wheeler Dam and on Hwy. 101 in Town Creek and all the way back into Decatur. I worked 16 hours on Friday and got home about midnight and then came back at 6 a.m. Saturday morning and got off at 6 a.m. Sunday morning.
Henderson: I was mainly in Lacey’s Spring. I started out in Cotaco during the very first outage, and then from there it went downhill pretty quick. We went to Lacey’s Spring and worked all night and all of the next day there and I got home on Sunday morning. I worked a total of 36 hours in Lacey’s Spring. I think this past weekend was an opportunity for our young lineman to have a good learning experience. My first storm was in 2004 with Hurricane Ivan and I think I learned more in three days restoring outages during that storm than I did the first six months I worked here.