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An Erratic Work Schedule Is No Problem for Lakeland Electric's Gary Boutwell [Energy Central's Weeklong National Lineman Appreciation Day Celebration]

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  • Apr 22, 2022
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Lineman Gary Boutwell works holidays, weekends, and late nights. Sometimes, after he comes back from a shift at the office at 3:30 pm, he is called back to assist his colleagues in the field. One would think all this work might take a toll on Gary’s personal life and mental health. 

But he takes the hectic and erratic work schedule in his stride. “This is not just a regular day job,” he says. “Even when you are not at work, you are doing your homework [such as studying line configurations or assisting colleagues in the field].” According to him, a lineman’s career is something that “you invest your time in, to make sure that it [your work on the power infrastructure] is going to last a long time.” 

Besides, he says he can always make up for missed personal events and vacation time later. 

A Different Challenge Every Day 

Boutwell began in the industry at the age of 20. He was working as an inventory specialist for a security company. “It was insane work: just going to the same office every day,” says the thirty-two-year-old. “It just wasn’t meant for me.” 

A chance conversation with his uncle, who worked as a lineman, put him on a path to his current career. He started as a groundman lineman with a contracting agency for Lakeland Electric and, now, works as a journeyman lineman with the utility. 

Boutwell’s uncle had sold the job on its novelty – a different day, a different challenge – every day. “It is never the same stuff daily my uncle told me,” says Boutwell. That pitch has held up well in Boutwell’s twelve years as a lineman. 

As a part of his job, he juggles multiple responsibilities. He coaches new recruits in the field on best practices and “tricks of the trade.” He works as a crew member repairing lines, installing new transformers, and undertaking new construction on the grid. He also contributes to training modules at work. 

A Job That Has Changed  

Back when he started, Boutwell was a free climber, meaning he did not wear much safety gear while ascending a wooden pole or tower. Lakeland Electric introduced him to the safety gear and harnesses required to make each climb. The mandatory gear, says Boutwell, is a good development because it makes his job safer and easier. New battery-operated powerful tools that take away physical stresses of the job are another change he has witnessed in the industry.  

But the biggest transformation has been in Boutwell’s immediate surroundings. “There’s a lot more customers now,” he says. Lakeland in Florida is one of the country’s fastest growing cities. Attracted to the Sunshine State’s low taxes, cheap home prices, and lifestyle, Americans are migrating to the city in droves. Businesses, like e-commerce giant Amazon, have also set up shop to cater to the growing demand. For Boutwell, the city’s multiplying population numbers has meant more calls, more customers, and more equipment. 

While his interaction with customer is infrequent, Boutwell says those interactions are the most satisfying ones. One of them occurred after Hurricane Irma – a 2017 storm that caused much destruction in the state. It left a little over 80,000 customers without power, says Boutwell, and he had to work 16-hour workdays to help restore power to customers. “Just the happiness, just the smile and gratitude, and the tears in their eyes, at seeing power come back on in their homes made me proud of my job,” he says. 

 

And a special thanks to our Partner Quanta Services for supporting this initiative!

Quanta Services is the leading specialty contractor with the largest skilled labor force in North America – providing fully integrated infrastructure solutions for the utility, pipeline, energy and communications industries.

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