Fletcher: Linemen Rodeo proof that program worthy of support

Probably, subliminally, you know there are Linemen Rodeos. There is one annually in Scottsdale, Ariz., in which college students from Alpena Community College participate at the end of their one year technical training in the utility technician program that has been in place for 22 years.

That trip is underwritten in part by Janet and Lucas Pfeiffenberger who have been fabulous friends of the college. These young technical trainees have placed pretty well over the years and we should be proud of their accomplishments.

What you probably didn’t know is that Alpena Power Co. linemen participate in a inter-utility company rodeo held annually in Kansas City. The company has sent teams for each of the past two competitions.

Some of the utilities send more than a dozen three-man teams every year but APC sends only one team because we only have nine linemen and somebody has to stay home to be available for trouble calls. Mike Morgan (hired 1979) is the coach and rides herd on the venture. Jerrod Villareal (1998) has participated twice while Aaron Christensen (2009), Kraig Dubie (2011), Chris Schultz (2012), and Jerred Hoppe (2012) have represented the community once.

There are two things about the hiring dates that are significant. First, climbing poles fast with points for speed and workmanship is largely a young person’s sport and second, these are all experienced linemen, most of whom went to ACC for training, worked out of town for a few years, then came back to work in their hometown. We are proud of their accomplishments and glad to have them on our team.

Keeping in mind that you are being served with electricity by one of the smallest investor-owned electric utilities in the nation, you must wonder how your linemen measure up against the big dogs. Our guys did better in the second year than they did in the first year’s experience but in both years they out-performed nearly 70 percent of the other teams. Who says local boys, trained at the local community college, employed by the local, small town utility can’t compete in the big leagues? How well did we score – 98 out of 100.

The point of this is ACC’s Electrical Technician program works. There are teams our guys compete against whose full-time job with a utility is only to perform at linemen rodeos. Our guys are released from other duties to compete.

ACC is now raising money to expand the utility program and that is where you can come in. If you agree that preparing local students for an industrial job is important, a contribution from you toward the building campaign might just push the project over the top. Right now the college needs about $100,000 out of $5,000,000 left to go.

In other late breaking news, I’m going to take a sabbatical from writing this column for a while. I may write an occasional piece but, at least for now, I’m going to slow the production.

I’ve been at this for more than four years on a weekly basis and I feel like a little vacation is needed. The purpose of this column has not been to persuade but rather to stimulate your thinking. I hope that you’ve had as much fun reading it as I have had writing it.