Cowboys of the pole: CU six compete in Lineman Rodeo
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Aug 04, 2014 | 1353 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CU Rodeo
ZACH TREW, a Cleveland Utilities lineman who competed in the Apprentice category, is seen here saving the life of this “Crash Test Dummy” during the Hurt-Man Rescue event in the recent Tennessee Valley Lineman Rodeo in Bowling Green, Ky. Contributed photo
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Six Cleveland Utilities workers who represented the local power provider during the recent 17th annual Tennessee Valley Lineman Rodeo may have let loose with a few “yee-haws!” but that’s the extent of any comparison with the other Wild West event known best for its cowboys, lassos and bareback broncs.

Most competitors didn’t wear feather-topped, wide-brimmed hats. Their boots were a working man’s leather and without the points. And the gloves prevented electrocution, not rope burn.

In one of the more ... unique ... reports given during a recent formal session of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities, Electric Division Manager of Operations Dean Watson pointed to the success of the half-dozen CU linemen who competed in the festive event.

Hosted by Warren Electric Cooperative in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the rodeo wasn’t just about having a good time ... in spite of the occasional linemen yee-haws.

Says Watson, it was about being scored on safety and personal performance techniques while learning from others and teaching as well.

“Cleveland Utilities linemen were grateful for the opportunity to be able to go and compete, interact with other linemen and learn from the techniques and tools utilized by other linemen across the [Tennessee Valley],” explained Watson, who was reporting on behalf of Electric Division Vice President Bart Borden.

He added, “The men represented CU and the city of Cleveland in a positive and professional manner.”

And one, Mike Isham, represented the local area especially well. He finished fourth in the Senior Linemen category for utility linemen over the age of 45.

“Mike [Isham] was the only lineman from CU to complete all the required events with no penalty points or deductions,” Watson said.

Although Isham was the lone award winner, all local competitors fared well. The CU board hosted the entire team of six at the recent monthly session.

Competitors included:

n Zach Trew who participated in the Apprentice events which consisted of a written test, hurt-man rescue, primary insulator replacement, triplex service installation and crossarm relocation;

n Josh Day, Eric Smith and Nathan Davis who entered the Journeyman team competition and was comprised of the hurt-man rescue, transformer changeout, single-phase polymer insulator changeout and capacitor changeout events; and

n [Mike] Isham and Steve Mowery who competed in the Senior Lineman events. These included the hurt-man rescue, the primary insulator changeout and a triplex service installation.

To the casual observer, it might sound like a couple days of fun and games, and it was, but the annual Lineman Rodeo comes with serious purpose.

“All events required the men to climb the poles, complete the required tasks and return safely to the ground,” Watson explained. “The men or teams were then scored by a judge with deductions issued for performance issues, safety violations or not completing all the required elements for the event.”

He added, “If the lineman had no deductions, the stopwatch rewarded the men or team with the shortest completion time for each event.”

Quality work and safe habits, coupled with speed, means a lot on cold winter days — and especially colder winter nights — when an ice storm, or toppled trees or limbs have snapped power lines, leaving entire neighborhoods and thousands of shivering CU customers without heat.

It’s all about turning the lights back on in an efficient, expedient and safe manner.

CU customers — and patrons of any public utility for that matter — are at their unhappiest when sitting in the dark, trembling in the cold of a January eve or sweltering in the heat of a “Dog Day” afternoon because their electric power is out. In most cases, when the lights come back on, all is forgiven. But in the interim, haste — and CU worker safety — are valued at the highest premium.

The recent Tennessee Valley Lineman Rodeo was open to all electrical distributors across the TVA service territory, Watson said.

It was a two-day rodeo that featured climbing, connecting, equipment replacement and rescue operations for injured co-workers. And when an electrical lineman is badly hurt at the top of a transmission pole or hundreds of feet above ground in a bucket truck, nothing is more important than efficiency, professionalism, following protocol and expediency — all of which are attained through detailed training.

Ken Webb, CU president and CEO, credited the linemen with entering the rodeo competition with three goals — to compete, to learn and to teach.

“These folks represented us well,” he said. “We’re proud of them, and the community is proud of them.”

Aubrey Ector, utility board chairman, also praised the willingness of the CU employees to compete, but most importantly to learn and to share their knowledge and talents with others who can benefit in their own utility roles.

“Congratulations, and thank you for your representation,” Ector told the group.

All six linemen attended the board session in the Tom Wheeler Training Center and Isham was presented a plaque for his award-winning performance.