By David Kligman
In Bakersfield, PG&E’s Jerry Bryant is climbing power poles before his shift even begins.
The Kern Division troubleman wants to be in top form as he prepares to represent PG&E in the International Lineman’s Rodeo on Saturday (Oct. 13).
The rodeo is held every year in Bonner Springs, Kan., a Kansas City suburb. The purpose of the contest is to showcase the unique and demanding abilities required of the world’s top electric workers.
The first rodeo—in 1984—included 12 teams. This year, more than 200 teams will compete. It will be PG&E’s first participation in the competition in 15 years.
“I’m honored to represent PG&E and hopefully show what kind of a company PG&E is,” Bryant said.
Competitors are tested on a number of skills, including speed climbing a pole. They also must rescue a mannequin stranded at the top of a pole. And they’re tested on changing out cross arms and insulators.
Speed is important, but never at the expense of safety.
“Actually that mimics what we do on the job,” Bryant said. “PG&E focuses on safety, quality and efficiency. But you never sacrifice safety or quality so that you can do something faster.”
PG&E recently held its own competition at its Livermore Training Center to determine who would represent the utility.
As family and friends cheered on, Bryant won his way into the international competition along with 14 other employees. Joining him are teams of employees from throughout the utility’s territory, as well as three apprentice line workers:
- Anthony Albright (Grass Valley lineman)
- Adam Beene (Grass Valley lineman)
- Steve Bentley (Grass Valley lineman)
- Shad Berry (Fresno Lineman)
- Jerry Bryant (Kern Division troubleman)
- Keenan Curtis (Salinas apprentice lineman)
- Jerrod Gregory (alternate lineman)
- Tyler Jones (Santa Cruz apprentice lineman)
- Derik McNeil (Merced lineman)
- George McNeil (Manteca lineman)
- Randy Patt (Bakersfield equipment operator)
- Chris Podergois (Fresno lineman)
- Logan Schaffer (Central coast apprentice lineman)
- Sean Tallman (Bakersfield lineman)
- Eli Tharp (Fresno lineman)
- Frankie Vargas (Los Banos lineman)
Greg Kiraly, PG&E’s senior vice president of electric distribution operations, said the rodeo is a great opportunity for the utility to show the dedication and skills of employees. Their hard work has reduced customer outages to an all-time low and improved service restoration times to their best levels in 10 years.
“After a 15-year drought, PG&E and the IBEW are back together again and we’re having our first lineman’s rodeo in a long time,” Kiraly said. “It’s great to see that PG&E pride, great to see the teamwork and collaboration as these guys show off their skills as some of the best linemen in the industry.”
For the competitors, it’s a dream come true.
“I’m just proud to show up here and give it my best,” Salinas apprentice lineman Keenan Curtis said. “It’s a bit intimidating, especially when you look at the Kansas City roster…but you get a joy knowing that you get to represent PG&E.”
E-mail David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com