Guy Elliott, an apprentice lineman with Central Lincoln People’s Utility District (PUD), took second place overall in his division at the International Lineman’s Rodeo held Oct. 16-19 in Overland Park, Kansas.
“They call it the hardware,” said Chan Christiansen, PUD operations supervisor, of the two awards Elliott brought home.
Climbing 40 feet up a pole and then back down with a raw egg in his mouth, all in 21 seconds, Elliott took fifth place out of 321 apprentices competing in the pole climb event. His best time, however, was a mere 15 seconds at the Pacific Northwest Lineman Rodeo in 2018.
The egg “teaches you not to jar your body and to breathe,” said Christiansen. The rodeos, he explained, help him to assess the skills of his apprentices.
Elliot, local to Lincoln County, was a 2010 graduate of Taft 7-12. Attending the Vocational Outside Line Training Academy (VOLTA) in Astoria in 2014, he was offered a job in New Mexico within two weeks of completing the program, he said.
“We hired him away from Portland General Electric,” said Chris Chandler, PUD public affairs officer.
“The way our industry is right now, you can go and get a job anywhere in this country being a journeyman lineman,” said Christiansen.
An apprentice lineman out of a trade school like VOLTA starts at a wage of roughly $31 per hour, increasing in steps every six months as the apprentice learns and advances, to journeyman earning more than $48 per hour. Elliott will complete his apprenticeship and become a journeyman power lineman in March.
Thanksgiving to President’s Day, said Christiansen, is storm season. Central Lincoln PUD linemen work an average of 200 to 250 hours of overtime each year.
“It’s definitely a challenging job,” said Elliott. “When your phone rings at two in the morning, and you’ve got a bunch of people out of power — maybe a car ran into a pole, or a tree came down and took down a bunch of lines — dragging yourself out of bed and waking up, being cognitive enough to figure out what the problem is and to do it safely … it takes a toll on you.”
“There will be times we will have to come down … get to a safer zone,” Elliott said of the danger of working in high winds during inclement weather. “You have rigging. We’re using trucks and rope and blocks to pull wire up or set poles. Not getting crushed — we call it ‘in the bite,’ where you’re in a zone where you can get hurt — that’s a pretty dangerous aspect of what we do.”
When he’s not climbing poles and repairing electric lines, Elliott is a fisherman. “I do a lot of fishing, sport fishing, out of Newport and Depoe Bay. I do a lot of free-dive spear fishing out of Pacific City.”
Elliott says of his work as an apprentice lineman, “It’s given me so many opportunities.”