April 14, 2020
STARKVILLE - Most of the time, the work that linemen do goes unnoticed — and in their world, that’s a good thing. It means their customers are receiving the electricity they need to power their homes and businesses safely and reliably. On April 18, Starkville Utilities will join the rest of the country in recognizing the vital services performed by line workers during National Lineman Appreciation Day.
“The linemen who serve our customers are some of the most skilled and dedicated professionals in the industry,” said Terry Kemp, general manager, Starkville Utilities. “Every day they focus on keeping the lights on and making sure our residential and business customers are satisfied with their service.”
Starkville Utilities’ line worker team comprises a core of seasoned professionals with decades of experience serving utility customers. They include David Leal, general foreman, whose 30-year career includes 15 years with Starkville Utilities.
“I’ve always taken pride in my work, and I take satisfaction in knowing that I’m helping people,” Leal said. “We have a great team here, and we work well together. We don’t do this for recognition, but our crews do their best every day to serve customers, and they deserve the spotlight.”
Leal begins most workdays reviewing job schedules and making sure line crews have the resources required to complete their work. In addition to installing new services and responding to calls, linemen perform routine maintenance and upgrades to improve system reliability.
Starkville Utilities currently has two major upgrades underway to benefit customers. With the support of contract crews, the utility is building a new substation on Azalea Lane to provide additional capacity and other service enhancements; and replacing copper wire with aluminum wire to boost system reliability and reduce outages.
Devices such as fault circuit indicators and lightning arrestors, as well as year-round tree trimming, also play key roles in Starkville Utilities’ outage-reduction efforts.
“We work continuously on upgrades to improve service, and our power quality studies show that our strategies are making a difference,” said Brad Scarbrough, a crew chief with 15 years of service at Starkville Utilities. “Our approach is to take care of equipment problems when we find them so they don’t cause problems in the future.”
When they’re working in the field, linemen are also on the front lines of customer service making sure that issues and concerns are satisfactorily resolved.
“When I talk to customers, I want them to know exactly what we’re doing and that we’re there to help,” said David Hatfield, a crew chief whose 34-year utility career includes 15 years with Starkville Utilities. “I’ve got a great crew, and they make sure they do the job right the first time.”
Becoming a lineman requires a significant investment of time and training and begins with an apprenticeship program that can last up to six years. For senior employees like Leal, Hatfield and Scarbrough, an important part of the job is coaching apprentice lineman and reinforcing the importance of working safely, whether during routine calls or service restoration efforts.
“I preach safety every day because safety is first,” Hatfield said. “When we’re working on storm response and there are poles and wires down, we want to get power back as fast as possible, but we have to take it one step at a time to be safe.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it necessary for line crews to add more safety precautions to their daily routines, such as social distancing, sanitizing work surfaces, and adjusting staffing levels to reduce exposure while maintaining 24/7 shift coverage.
On National Lineman Appreciation Day, line workers will be doing what they do best — delivering safe, reliable and cost-effective power to the customers of Starkville Utilities.
“There are many reasons to thank linemen for the services they provide to our customers and our community,” Kemp said. “Linemen are the backbone of the utility industry, and we are fortunate to have such a talented and experienced team of linemen at Starkville Utilities.”
Starkville Utilities is a public utility serving 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville, Mississippi as well as Mississippi State University. Its mission is to supply safe, reliable, and cost-effective electric and water service of superior quality and value that improves the lives of its customers.