City of Thomasville Utilities’ Electric Department linemen know what it means to work in some of the most extreme circumstances. When winds are howling, lightening is flashing and thunder is popping – that’s when linemen and other electric crew members are called to spring into action. “When most people are safely indoors during extreme weather conditions, that’s when our line crews are at their best,” said Bruce Whittington, Director of Electric Engineering and Operations.
On April 18th, the City of Thomasville Utilities’ Electric Department will join other electric providers nationwide in celebrating the hardworking men and women who keep the lights on. “The City of Thomasville employs nine linemen at various levels within our department,” said Brent Alderman, Electric Operations Manager and a lineman. “Together with the other members of our line crew, which includes electricians, apprentice linemen, groundsmen, and tree trimmers, they represent the first responders in our community when electric service is impacted.”
“Our local linemen are instrumental in providing our customers with electricity,” said Whittington. “While April 18th honors electric linemen specifically, our entire line crew is instrumental in serving our customers to the high standards of the City of Thomasville.”
Whittington explains that electricity is delivered along a series of connected wires and poles, and when that connection is interrupted by something like a falling tree branch, faulty equipment or anything else, crews respond. “Our number one priority is to safely rebuild and restore services as quickly as possible,” he said.
City of Thomasville Utilities’ Electric Operations crews do just that in the case of every outage, whether big or small. “Recently, we’ve had two significant instances of widespread outages, with Hurricane Hermine in September and the strong storms and tornados experienced by our area in January,” said Alderman. “In both cases, our crews worked extended hours over several days to bring our community back to full restoration.”
Alderman said that Thomasville crews have also been called to assist in other communities during their times of need. “We participate in mutual aid agreements so that we have additional help on standby in cases where we need assistance,” he said. “When other communities need our help, we are always happy to respond and lend a hand.” Some communities where City of Thomasville Utilities crews have offered assistance recently include Albany, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida.
The path to lineman is one that involves many hours of training and preparation to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to safely work with electricity. “The first level within our department is that of Groundsman, which requires only the ability and desire to learn,” said Alderman. “Groundsmen work in the field and also attend training classes presented by the Electric Cities of Georgia (ECG) to become certified.”
Once certified, a Groundsman has the opportunity to be promoted to Apprentice Lineman. “The lineman apprenticeship involves three years of field experience and applied classroom training to become certified by ECG.”
Once certified, an apprentice lineman then completes an on-the-job training program to show proficiency at meeting field requirements and benchmarks. “This phase involves advancing his or her skills and working on energized lines and transformers in both outage situations and for routine powerline maintenance,” said Alderman. “Showing proficiency in both field work and safety procedures is equally important. When the apprentice demonstrates that he or she has the skills and knowledge required to be a lineman, a training test is given on the job and if successful, the apprentice advances to a lineman.”
In addition to Alderman, the City of Thomasville Utilities’ Electric Operations line crew includes Lineman and Distribution Supervisor Terry Henderson; Lead Linemen/Crew Leaders Jarrett Turnbull, Rudy Thompson, and Travis Lamos; Linemen Steve Humphries, Scott Stephens, Jay Watts, and Joe Lane; Electrician Ben Spencer; Apprentice Linemen George Walker, Jesse Mayfield, Jacob Gunn, Jeremy Layton, Dusty Rodgers, Jeffrey Highsmith, Bryce Gay, and Curtis Eidson; Groundsman Elisha Harrell; Tree Trimmer/ Crew Leaders Thomas Phillips and Robert Prosser; and Tree Trimmers Taylor McWade-Murray, Jeremy Baker and Richard Dukes.