Lives on the Line

Baldwin EMC CEO Karen Moore

It’s been 54 years since a tragic accident cut Mitchell Johnson’s life way too short as he worked on a Baldwin EMC power pole. He was a young lineman and a good one I’m told. He had a wife and a young son and a great deal of promise in his career. But he also had a devotion to his job that led him to put his life at risk, one foot after another, as he climbed a power pole that was being relocated to make way for the paving
of County Road 23 in Bay Minette.

The year was 1963, and it was the last time an accident on the job claimed the life of a Baldwin EMC employee. No one currently employed at the co-op today worked with Mitchell, and before last April, only a handful knew the story of how he gave his life for his job.

Now we’re working to change that, thanks to the efforts of Jody Taylor, Baldwin EMC’s vice president of operations and Frankie Kucera, Baldwin EMC’s retired operations manager who worked alongside Mitchell until the day he died. Mitchell’s story is being incorporated into our safety training program at Baldwin EMC, encouraging employees to closely inspect the poles they’re working on and to never shortchange the safety measures that protect them day in and day out.

Mitchell’s story is a good reminder of just how many Baldwin EMC employees are willing to do a job that puts their lives in danger every day.

Sure, any of us could be the victim of a tragedy at any time. Simply driving to work puts every one of us at risk. But there’s something different about looking danger in the face and going toe-to-toe with it to provide service to other people.

Electrical current measuring as low as 100 milliamperes is enough to stop your heart if you were to come into contact with it. Many of our employees, including our linemen, meter technicians and right-of-way crews, just to name a few groups of employees, deal with electrical currents that are significantly higher than that on a daily basis. We equip them with protective gear and the training they need to stay safe. But the very nature of the work they do means danger is still a real threat.

These employees haven’t chosen their careers because they’re thrill seekers who like the adrenaline rush of a dangerous job. Instead, if you ask them what they love about their jobs, what keeps them coming back, they’ll tell you it’s because they work for a company that helps people. They work to serve others.

I didn’t know Mitchell Johnson, but after hearing stories about him, I feel like his point of view would have been the same.

On June 5, Baldwin EMC will join the state of Alabama to recognize Lineman Appreciation Day. While we always appreciate our linemen, this is when the entire state comes together to say thank you to those who put themselves on the line for those we serve.

Beyond just linemen, I’d like to also personally thank every one of our employees who looks danger in the eye every day and does the job to the best of his or her ability. As Franklin D. Roosevelt, father of the rural electrification movement in the United States, once said, “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

Thank you for deciding the service you provide is more important. Thank you for your courage.

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