Essential by Definition: Baldwin EMC’s linecrews have never been anything else

CEO Karen Moore

Essential workers. We all got to know that term quite well as our country dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a way to identify those who “had” to go to work to provide a necessary service, versus those who could stay home.

Not everyone agreed with our local government on what was considered essential. But when severe weather rolled into our area several times as we were under our state’s stay-at-home order, there was no disputing the vital status of one particular group of workers: the linemen of Baldwin EMC.

As most of us hunkered down safely in our homes, listening as rain rattled against our roofs, these employees got dressed and reported for duty right in the thick of it.

I have a great deal of respect for the ways these men approach their work, even under these unfavorable conditions. For them, it’s simply what they signed up for. It’s what they’ve trained for years to be able to do. It’s all part of the title of lineman, a title they each carry with tremendous pride.

Several years ago, I wanted to gain a better understanding of how the work of a lineman affects their lives, so I volunteered to go on call with a member of our line crew. Of course, without the proper training, I couldn’t do the work. But I requested that anytime this employee was sent out on an outage, that I would also get a call to meet up with him. I kept a safe distance from the work that was being done, while observing everything I could, and learning more than I ever expected.

Under normal circumstances, when I leave work for the day, I do exactly that. I “leave” work. Even though I may still get phone calls, texts and emails, for the most part, I can unplug until the next day. However, when I was “on call,” the responsibility I was carrying could never take a backseat. If I was making dinner, I had to consider the fact that I might have to stop in the middle of it. Trips to the grocery store, the gym, even church all had to be planned around a possible outage situation. I could never completely disconnect. Neither can our linemen.

Electricity is indeed essential. Power restoration can’t wait until a convenient time for our crews. Our linemen set aside their personal priorities to better serve their local community.

Equally important is their reliance on a strong support system at home. A lineman’s family understands and supports their loved one’s commitment to the greater community during severe storms and power outages. This means in times of prolonged outages, linemen and their families may have minimal communication and not see each other for several days. Without strong family support and understanding, this challenging job would be all the more difficult.

In Baldwin County and across the country, electric co-op lineworkers’ mission-focused mentality of helping others often extends beyond their commitment to their work at the co-op. Linemen are often familiar figures in the community. They can be found coaching youth sports teams, volunteering for local charities and even holding public office.

Monday, June 1 is Alabama’s Linemen Appreciation Day. Given the dedication of Baldwin EMC line crews, both on and off the job, I encourage you to take a moment and acknowledge the many contributions they make to our local community. And if you see their family members in the grocery store or out and about in the community, please offer them a thank you as well.

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