Working the lines

Posted on Oct 07 2021 in Bartholomew County REMC
Lineman group at BCREMC
Jordan Kelly, Jeff Schwartzkopf and Matt Rickelman (from left) enjoy being part of the REMC’s line crew.

Courtney Metzger

Utility line work is rated as one of the top 10 most dangerous jobs in America. From storm work to the extreme heat and cold, linemen fight through the elements to provide safe, reliable power to our communities.  

Working in these conditions is often not a choice for them, but staying safe is a decision they make every day. Teamwork, troubleshooting, and communication are necessary skills required to be a successful lineman, all while following safety protocols and completing the job efficiently. 

Knowing the dangers of the job did not stop this month’s spotlighted crew; Journeyman Linemen, Jeff Schwartzkopf and Matt Rickelman and Apprentice Lineman, Jordan Kelly. They’re all putting in the work to excel at being a lineworker.

How did you become a lineman?

Jeff Schwartzkopf: I started out as a meter reader, then got the chance to move up and be an apprentice. 

Matt Rickelman: I had a lot of friends go to lineman school and it sounded like a great idea.

Jordan Kelly: I went to line school in Georgia, then was hired on at IPL, and eventually found myself at BCREMC.

What is your favorite part of the job?

Jeff Schwartzkopf: Helping the members resolve their problems or seeing the joy on their face when we fix a long lasting outage. 

Matt Rickelman: I enjoy working outside and problem solving. 

Jordan Kelly: I enjoy troubleshooting outages and working for Shawn Tucker (line superintendent).

What is the hardest part of the job?

Jeff Schwartzkopf: The extreme weather conditions can be very difficult to work in. 

Matt Rickelman: Being on call and having to wake up anytime there is an outage.

Jordan Kelly: Although I enjoy troubleshooting outages, it is one of the harder parts of the job.

What do you wish the customer understood about your job?

Jeff Schwartzkopf: Just how dangerous our job really is.

Matt Rickelman: We work as quickly as we can to get the lights back on, but it is not as easy as flipping a switch.

Jordan Kelly: We always do our best to get the power back on as soon as possible.

What advice would you give others looking to become a lineman?

Jeff Schwartzkopf: Be ready to live a different lifestyle. Outages and emergencies don’t have a schedule, so you’ll have to adapt.

Matt Rickelman: Do it!

Jordan Kelly: Do not be picky about your first job. When you do get a job, strive to be as dedicated and hardworking as my co-worker, Andrew Hudson.

What has being a lineman taught you?

Jeff Schwartzkopf: The job has taught me how to handle all the different situations that may arise.

Matt Rickelman: I’ve learned to have patience and try to think a couple steps ahead.

Jordan Kelly: Safety first! 

Can you describe the culture of the lineworker environment? Can you share what it’s like to be a part of the team and what the means?

Jeff Schwartzkopf: It can definitely feel like a family environment when all parts of the team are working well together.

Matt Rickelman: The comradery is unmatched. Being on the team means everyone is counting on you to do your part.

Jordan Kelly: I really enjoy working with all the linemen at BCREMC. We work hard and have a good time while doing it.

What are the skills needed to perform this line of work?

Jeff Schwartzkopf: There are too many skills to list, but one of my favorite skills to use is troubleshooting to help the member.

Matt Rickelman: Patience, problem solving, and good work ethic.

Jordan Kelly: Thick skin, strong mind, and a strong back.

What keeps you motivated coming to work each day? Aside from your crew, why do you enjoy this job? Why is it important? What does it mean to you? 

Jeff Schwartzkopf: Being able to provide for my family and helping the member whenever possible.

Matt Rickelman: I take a lot of pride in what I do.

Jordan Kelly: Greg Shelton keeps me motivated. I enjoy solving problems that turn on a member’s heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. 

Give an example of a job or project you are proud of.

Jeff Schwartzkopf: There are so many jobs and projects to be proud of!

Matt Rickelman: Working in Florida when Hurricane Irma hit.

Jordan Kelly: I am proud of all of the security lights I have fixed. One in particular was very important to a member’s grandmother. It felt great knowing I could help.

How has being a lineman brought you closer to your community?

Jeff Schwartzkopf: While completing work orders throughout the community, I get to answer questions and get to know our members.

Matt Rickelman: I get to meet our consumers and members of the community while I’m out working.

Jordan Kelly: I enjoy talking with our members. I learn a lot from them and educate them on the basics of power distribution when time allows. 

We appreciate the hard work and dedication our line workers put in every day. We are so thankful to each and every one of our crews who work tirelessly taking care of our members.