Judging by the Looks of Things, the 24th Annual International Lineman's Rodeo was a Big Success. Crowds of people cheered as 212 journeyman teams and 232 apprentices competed for top honors on Oct. 27th in Bonner Springs, Kansas, U.S.

Of course, the linemen who compete take center stage. But behind the scenes another group works just as hard to make the rodeo a success. Often overlooked, the judges play a big role in the rodeo. After all, there couldn't be a competition without them. And this year, with so many linemen competing, the judges had their work cut out for them.

The judges we talked with were thrilled to volunteer their time and be a part of this year's rodeo.

“It's an honor to come out and be a judge,” said James Jones of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 702 (West Frankfort, Illinois, U.S.). “You've got to give a little back [to the industry],” he explained.

Jones used to compete in the rodeo, so this was his first year as a judge. “Our [competition] teams were full and I wanted to come out and do something, and it's been a good experience seeing the other side of it, judging versus competing. It's a lot easier to judge than compete,” Jones observed.

TYPES OF JUDGES

Anyone who is or has ever been a qualified practicing, working lineman is eligible to be a judge for the International Lineman's Rodeo. There are master judges, chief judges and event judges for each journeyman and apprentice event, which this year included the pole climb, hurt man rescue, journeyman mystery event 1 — replace a 10-ft (3-m) cross-arm on a double dead-circuit tangent pole, journeyman mystery event 2 — replace an insulator on an outside phase using a hot arm, apprentice mystery event — wood-brace changeout, and a written test and CPR (apprentices only).

Rick Childers, a volunteer event coordinator for the rodeo, oversees all the judges and makes the judge assignments from year to year. According to Childers, there were approximately 250 judges scoring the nine events.

Each event had two chief judges assigned to it, with the exception of the apprentice written test, which had three chief judges. There were also two tool inspection chief judges and two first-aid coordinator/chief judges on site. The chief judges roamed the event areas and watched the event judges for inconsistencies in judging and bad or unfair calls.

There also were three journeyman master judges and one apprentice master judge. The master judges oversaw the overall judging for two events each.

THE SAME PLAYING FIELD

The chief and master judges met prior to the rodeo, on Thursday, Oct. 25th, to discuss questions they had about the events they were in charge of and about judging in general. Those judges then held a meeting the next day, Oct. 26th, for the event judges. The overall goal of these meetings was for all the judges to be on the same page.

In these meetings, the judges were prepped on rules and regulations. (They also were given the “Red Book,” which details in writing the rules and regulations.) The master and chief judges showed the event judges what specifically to pay attention to in their event and reviewed the proper techniques, demonstrating exactly what could and couldn't be done in competition. For instance, event judges for the pole climb were told that a fall-arrest safety could be worn and the master judge explained the kinds of fall-arrest safeties that were allowed (for example, flat type, seat belt retractable, etc.).

“I make sure the judges are all judging exactly the same and that is the key to any of the judging,” said Chief Judge Cleve Trent, who's been a judge for 15 years and is a line foreman with MidAmerican Energy (Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.). “If we say we're going to do something one way, everybody has to do it that way. At our meetings that we have on Friday [before the rodeo], we emphasize strongly, ‘You may not agree with what we're going to say, but this is the way it's going to be done and we want everybody on the same page.’”

Overall, the judges looked for safety, good work practices, neatness and ability, proper equipment handling and timely completion.

Apprentice judge Raymond Bruneel of Detroit Edison (Detroit, Michigan, U.S.) pointed out that with apprentices, it's all about making sure they're doing everything the safe way. “Especially the apprentice events, you get guys who have only been doing it six or eight months and then you get guys who are just about ready to become journeyman,” he explained.

As a tool inspection chief judge, Al Gummere's focus is different than that of event judges. Gummere, who is retired from the City of Columbus, Ohio, U.S., has been a judge for about 12 years. “We check the hand lines, and make sure they have the right hooks,” Gummere said. “We check the rubber gloves, and make sure they're not altered by cutting X's in the knuckles or slices in the palm or cutting fingers out of them. We check the belts, and make sure there was nothing altered in them … When we find [improper equipment], we have them fix it.”

DIFFERENT WORK PRACTICES

As a judge, Dwayne Devries of CenterPoint Energy (CNP; Houston, Texas, U.S.) enjoys getting to see how other utilities work while learning some tricks of the trade. Devries used to compete in the rodeo, but for five years now he's been a judge. “The difference in being a judge is trying to stay open-minded to different work practices and being able to say, ‘Well, if it wasn't a safety issue, maybe that's just the way somebody else does it,’” Devries explained.

Trevor Smith, a construction supervisor with Manitoba Hydro (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), is also interested in seeing how other linemen peform their work. An event judge for the journeyman pole climb, Smith was particularly interested to find that more linemen are using fall-arrest equipment.

“In Canada, it's legislated for the pole fall arrest, and we're starting to see more and more teams down here go that way,” Smith noted. “I think eventually they'll all be that way. So, I'm seeing guys catch onto that system.”

STRONG WORKMANSHIP

All of the judges T&D World spoke to were enthusiastic about the workmanship demonstrated out on the field at the rodeo. “It's fun to come out and see the guys, especially the younger guys who are revved up about it and have a lot of talent,” observed Jeff Day, a rodeo judge and the supervisor of operations for National Grid (Westborough, Massachusetts). “They come out and respect the industry and those that did the job before us.”

Another judge, Joe Cornell of IBEW Local 104 (Walpole, Massachusetts), added, “It's amazing to see the quality of guys that are coming into line work nowadays.”

2007 LINEMAN'S RODEO WINNERS

Journeyman Event Winners
Journeyman Overall
Place Company Team Members
1st Cobb EMC Brumelow, Nelson, McCart
2nd Georgia Power Co. Stover, Autry, Brown
3rd Georgia Power Co. Hendrick, Hall, Gracen
4th AEP Ohio Griffith, Sowards, Marcum
5th Georgia Power Co. Hamrick, Vaught, Goodwin
Journeyman Division Winners
1st Place Company Team Members
Contractor IBEW Local 702 Dickemper, Logan, Moore
Investor-Owned Georgia Power Co. Stover, Autry, Brown
Military 375th Civil Engineer Squadron Morris, Seals, Willim
Municipal Orlando Utility Commission Alexander, Boley, Hosier
REA EMC & Co-op Cobb EMC Brumelow, Nelson, McCart
Seniors CenterPoint Energy Martinez, Perez, Netty
Pole Climb
Place Company Team Members
1st Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 West, Claude, Poudrier
2nd AEP Ohio Griffith, Sowards, Marcum
3rd Licking Valley RECC Murphy, Spencer, Adkins
Hurt Man Rescue
Place Company Team Members
1st Cobb EMC Brumelow, Nelson, McCart
2nd Georgia Power Co. Crosby, Brock, Hitchcock
3rd Jackson EMC Connell, McElwaney, Eckstein
Mystery Event 1: Replace 10-ft crossarm on double dead-circuit tangent pole
Place Company Team Members
1st Georgia Power Co. Crosby, Brock, Hitchcock
2nd Georgia Power Co. Stover, Autry, Brown
3rd Cobb EMC Brumelow, Nelson, McCart
Mystery Event 2: Replace insulator on outside phase using hot arm
Place Company Team Members
1st Cobb EMC Brumelow, Nelson, McCart
2nd Georgia Power Co. Stover, Autry, Brown
3rd Portland General Electric Blackwell, Rinard, Hatanpaa
Apprentice Event Winners
Top Apprentice Overall
Place Company Team Members
1st Georgia Power Co. Tommy Garrett
2nd Progress Energy Carolinas Russell Duncan
3rd Mississippi Power Charlie Watson
4th Georgia Power Co. Jason Gable
5th Georgia Power Co. Joshua Williams
Apprentice Division Winners
1st Place Company Team Members
Contractor IBEW Local 702 Jeremy Byers
Investor-Owned Georgia Power Co. Tommy Garrett
Municipal Los Angeles Department of Water & Power Matthew Schneider
REA EMC & Co-op Cobb EMC Aaron Willmert
Written Test
Place Company Apprentice
1st Georgia Power Co. Tommy Garrett
2nd Progress Energy Carolinas Russell Duncan
3rd Georgia Power Co. Jason Gable
Pole Climb
Place Company Team Members
1st NSTAR Electric Jayson Henley
2nd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Greg Fish
3rd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Chris Babineau
Hurt Man Rescue
Place Company Team Members
1st Cobb EMC Aaron Willmert
2nd Walton EMC Charles Ryan West
3rd Cobb EMC Scotty Lyons
Mystery Event: Wood-brace changeout
Place Company Team Members
1st Snapping Shoals EMC Chris Harper
2nd PacifiCorp Mike Larsen
3rd Cobb EMC Lance Ballenger
CPR
Place Company Team Members
1st Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Art Garcia
2nd Progress Energy Carolinas Russell Duncan
3rd Duke Energy Justin Siefert
For complete results of all the events, visit www.linemansrodeokc.com.