Tennessee Valley Authority
Born in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Enjoys golfing, hunting and fishing.
Describes himself as a man who loves his work and his family.
Can't live without his bucket truck or his crane.
Inspired by his dad, who is a retired lineman and a Methodist minister.
Learned valuable life lessons from his uncle, Elvis Beller, who showed him how to have a strong work ethic.
My dad encouraged me to join the trade. I remember doing hard work growing up. Every weekend, I helped my dad to top trees, pull hand lines, tie ropes, perform rigging and hand tools to him.
I started as an apprentice lineman in 1996 for Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). We built power lines and switches from Mississippi to Kentucky.
Day in the Life
My typical day starts at 7 a.m. We have a teleconference, and I meet with my crew and discuss our daily work schedule. I then visit the office, load up on materials, head out to the job site and perform a pre-job briefing.
Our crew is responsible for maintenance, and we operate cranes, retire lines, run wire pullers and build pads. We also change poles, run bulldozers, inspect power lines and check the condition of our tools and grounds.
I have a wonderful crew. The youngest member is 40 years old, and the oldest is 55 years old. I have one guy who worked all over the United States as a contractor and another who retired from Fayetteville Utilities in Fayetteville, Tennessee, and then came to work for TVA. Sometimes we golf together after work, and it's great that we get along so well. If you can't have fun at work, then it's no use coming to work.
I watched four people die one day in Savannah, Tennessee, during a stringing operation. We were using a helicopter to pull in rope. I was sent to the other side of the river to unhook the rope. My pole buddy climbed the pole to throw the rope over a previously pulled in rope to get a buck out of it. As he moved down the pole, the helicopter blades accidentally hit the top of the pole. The first rotor blade hit the pole, and the second split my friend in half. The helicopter then went down to the ground, and it instantly killed three people, including two pilots and a crew chief. A weighted rope narrowly missed my foreman, who was talking on his radio.
I watched the entire thing from the other side of the river. After it happened, I went back over there, and the emergency responders were already on site. I couldn't believe that I was sitting elbow-to-elbow with my friend that morning, and then all of a sudden, he was gone. That was Feb. 3, 1998, and it made me realize that safety always needs to be first and foremost.
A tornado hit Jackson, Tennessee, back in 1998 when I was a third-year apprentice. It caused massive devastation. The towers were twisted, the wire was broken, and a tower was crunched down into a ball with a chain-link fence wrapped around it.
The tornado also tore through a subdivision and flattened three-quarters of the homes. A power line ran through that subdivision, and we had to go through and install new wire and rebuild the line.
As we were working, we had to watch people sift through their personal belongings and see what was left of their homes. Because we had to restore power, we were out there walking around and stepping over all of their things.
Plans for the Future
I've spent 15 years in the field. Time flies when you are having fun. I enjoy the challenge of the work, and I try to learn something new every day. That's what draws me back and keeps me in this trade from one day to the next. I was in my 30s when I got started, so I'll probably work out in the field until I'm about 60, and then I'll enjoy golfing, hunting and fishing.
I've seen so many people who have lived only six months after their retirement. For example, we have one foreman who is 75 and still working, and that won't be me. I'd like to retire early enough to enjoy life.