For 17 years he has been at the forefront of Alcorn County’s worst power outages leaving his family at home in times of disaster when others in the community needed him most ... although they might not have realized it.
“We give people in this community service in the rain, sleet or snow. If the power is out, we’re on the job no matter what,” said Gibson. “It’s a 24/7 job, never-ending ... but, I love it. I love serving the people.”
Gibson is one of 14 ACE Power electrical lineworkers who work on electrically energized power lines performing repairs and upgrades to the power cooperative’s more than 18,000 members.
ACE lineman, as well as the more than 115,00 lineman across the county, are being honored today for National Lineman Appreciation Day.
“I am extremely proud our national leaders have recognized the dedication and sacrifice our lineman show every day,” said ACE CEO Eddie Howard. “Our lineman do not hesitate to leave their homes and families and risk their lives in the times of storms or other disasters to restore electric service to our members.”
According to ACE COO Jason Grisham, the day is about bringing awareness to the line of work.
“At one time electricity was a luxury. Now it’s a necessity,” he said. “What lineman do for us is often taken for granted, but when the power goes out you need a lineman whether you know it or not.”
A day in the life of a ACE lineman often begins with Grisham, who oversees engineering and operations at the power company.
“My engineering department and I design the jobs. We provide them with a plan for where we are going and what we need to do,” said Grisham. “Some of our planning is determined by upgrades, customer orders or storms.”
Grisham then sends the order to Paul McNair, ACE’s operating superintendent.
“I take the jobs from Jason and get them coordinated with the lineman,” he said. “Linemen are very important and my guys are second to none.”
Guys like Gibson and 13-year lineman Don Arnold.
“Most of our day is maintenance,” said Arnold, a Corinth native. “Lots of new construction, replacing poles and always doing work to upgrade the system.”
Both Gibson and Arnold always knew they wanted to be lineman.
“I worked my way up. It’s about a 10-year process to get trained,” added Arnold. “When I was hired, though, I knew I wanted to be a lineman.”
Gibson said there’s no better job for him.
“It was a perfect deal for me because I love being outdoors and I love working around construction,” said the Kossuth native. “I can’t think of anything I would rather do.”
Following natural disasters and after Alcorn County power is restored, Grisham often takes volunteer lineman who head to other parts of the South where help is needed.
“I’ve seen a lot,” said Arnold. “The worst has got to be Hurricane Katrina. We were in Wiggins ... it was bad.”
Locally, lineman have had it rough as well following heavy snow, ice and straight-line winds.
“We’ve worked Christmas Eve after a storm and that’s tough when a person has to leave their family on Christmas,” added Gibson. “It’s a lot of gratification ... and when folks stop and tell us ‘thank you’, it means a lot.”
For lineworkers, safety is paramount, according to Grisham.
“Dealing with high voltage, it only takes one mistake and these guys know that,” he said. “Some jobs you can make mistakes, but not here. When lineman are first hired, we make sure they are aware of the dangers. These guys are professionals. They are trained well and they work safe and do it right.”
Line forman are John Lee Crow and Wally Eaton.
Current ACE linemen include Gibson, Gary McCalla, Shane Taylor, Todd Hajek, Arnold, Brad Bonds, Bud Scott and Jesse Curtis. Apprentice linemen are Mark Horton, Kyle Holcombe, Matt Sexton and Josh Chapman.
Other ACE employee positions who assist lineman are groundmen, tree trimmers, meter tester, collector, service metermen, mechanics, warehousemen and laborers.
Howard added, “Although it takes many employees to keep ACE Power running and providing electric service to our members, the lineman are the ones most associated with electric utility work and it is rewarding to know others realize this and honor these men with such a day.”