Foul Weather Doesn’t Stall Pole Top CompetitionBy Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: May 16th, 2014
Some electric cooperative linemen in Arkansas spent a recent Saturday climbing up and down poles, but instead of restoring power or rebuilding co-op lines, they enjoyed a day of friendly competition.
“This was the third annual Arkansas Linemen Rodeo, and crews from two co-ops, fielding five teams joined us this year,” said Rob Roedel, manager of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. “Luckily the cooperatives in Arkansas were spared from the harshest swath of the tornado-related weathers that ripped through the state earlier in the week.”
The statewide association and Arkansas State University-Newport sponsored the April 26 event at the college’s northeast Arkansas campus, about 90 miles northeast of Little Rock. The school is home to Arkansas’ High Voltage Lineman Technology program.
Since it was created with help from the statewide co-op association in 2004, it has produced nearly 150 graduates with technical certifications and more than two dozen who’ve obtained associate degrees in applied science. Many of its graduates are employed by the state’s electric cooperatives.
“This rodeo is an important part of lineman training because it allows them to exercise their skills in an extremely competitive environment,” said Mel Coleman, CEO of Salem-based North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, and NRECA Board vice president. “It also gives the public an opportunity to see how skilled these men are at what they do.”
For linemen used to hearing the sound of howling winds, pelting rain, or the whirr of bucket truck lift motors while they work, the cheers of family, friends and co-workers were an added treat.
North Arkansas EC’s four three-man teams took top honors over a crew from First Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Jacksonville. Seven apprentice linemen also demonstrated skills they are learning on the job.
“This is direct mutual aid from one lineman to another because they are sharing the skills that help make them more effective,” Coleman said. “That builds the cooperative spirit among linemen from various parts of the state, and reinforces a level of trust that’s critical when they need to work together to get the lights on.”