Chief Grayson Johnson came to work at Talquin Electric nearly 20 years ago.
At the time, Johnson said he worked with his father on the family farm, in the Sycamore/Greensboro area.
As his family looked to the future, Johnson said it was realized that farming would no longer provide the same benefits and lifestyle that it had to farmers in the past, and Johnson began looking elsewhere for a living.
“My father recommended that I get a good job with retirement and benefits,” said Johnson, adding that Talquin Electric was Crewhis first choice.
“Talquin Electric is in the county that I live in, it’s close to home, and there’s an ease of accessibility,” explains Johnson.
As a crew chief, Johnson is responsible for the oversight and management of his own crew.
When a new Talquin employee is hired, Johnson explains that they are placed as a helper for several months.
At the end of the helper period, the linemen are signed on as an apprentice; apprenticeships last five years and are used to teach upcoming linemen the fundamentals of working with electricity and adjust them to the daily duties.
At the end of the apprenticeship period, a Talquin employee is considered a First Class Linemen. These are the people who are driving trucks, climbing up poles, and repairing outages.
A crew chief is the next step up the ladder; Johnson has been a crew chief for six years and oversees two different first class linemen and their trucks.
Johnson explains that in order to be a successful linemen, prospective Talquin employees must have dedication and the realization that their careers will require them to miss birthday parties, anniversaries, weddings, and holidays.
Johnson says his wife completely understands the requirements of his job, and his children understand as they get older.
While some of his children are still fairly young, Johnson says that knowing that their dad could be called away at a moment’s notice to fix an outage for another family is something his children have grown to accept.
“You’ve got to have dedication. You’ve got to have dedication to your job. Dedication and safety are the main things,” says Johnson.
Johnson says that a good lineman will need to show responsibility, a heart for hard work, patience to learn the trade, commitment, and respect for electricity.
Despite a linemen being known as fearless, Johnson says he doesn’t prefer that term being used as a required characteristic.
“When you are working with electricity, you can’t be fearless; you have to be respectful of the voltage,” says Johnson.
Linemen use many protective equipment and clothing whenever they are working with high-voltage electricity, such as rubber blankets to cover up lines, dense rubber gloves, flame-resistant long-sleeved shirts and pants, and rubber sleeves that come up to the lineman’s neck.
In the summertime, Johnson says wearing and using all the heavy rubber can be extremely hot and heavy.
“But it’s worth it. These things protect us so we can go home to our families.”
For the last 20 years, through foul weather, midnights, missed birthday parties and Christmas mornings, Grayson Johnson has been on the brave men putting Gadsden County’s residents and business owners first.
When the power goes out, Johnson and his team are out and about, working hard to restore power and bring back the light.
Ashley Hunter is the editor of The Havana Herald, a member of the Gadsden County News Service.