Balancing Work and Life While Powering the Interior
By Rachael Kvapil
Ben Porter, lineman journeyman for GVEA, knows the importance of working for a company with shared values. After working as a lineman for a decade in the private section, Porter jumped at the opportunity to join GVEA so that he could have a better work-life balance as he raised his family. A decade later, he’s still happy he made the change.
“One of the biggest challenges in this position is learning to balance between work and family time,” says Porter. “GVEA has been really good about allowing me to stay active in my kids’ lives.”
As a lineman journeyman, Porter performs a variety of transmission and distribution line construction, maintenance and inspection operations under energized and de-energized conditions. He and his team construct, operate, repair and maintain overhead and underground electrical transmission and distribution systems. In the event an outage occurs, linemen are on the front lines restoring power in a minimal amount of time. Though linemen work in teams of 2 to 4, they are often called upon to train apprentices who are at the start of their career. Their role is vital to the success of utility services, and they are recognized for their quality work every April 18th on National Lineworker Appreciation Day.
GVEA linemen work along the Richardson Highway to Delta Junction and down the Parks Highway to Cantwell. Porter says little has changed in the type of work performed by lineman though there have been some innovations to help them as they work.
“Back in the day linemen were these big, hard, grizzly guys who worked themselves to the bone,” says Porter. Now we have better equipment and tools that make it safer and easier on the body.”
Overall, Porter says the primary challenge in his position is working in extreme weather. For the most part, he knows what to expect from season to season with some variations in recent years.
“The last few years we’ve had rain in the winter with some larger windstorms in the summer,” says Porter.
Porter says becoming a lineman is the best decision he ever made. He joined the union and became an apprentice right out of high school. He finds it fulfilling to help GVEA members, whether it is connecting them to the system for the first time or responding to an outage after a big storm. He suggests that anyone considering a career as a lineman should look into theAlaska Joint Electrical Apprenticeship and Training Trust.
“They do a great job holding your hand and leading you into a career,” says Porter. “They really take the guess work out of stuff.”
Born and raised in Fairbanks, Porter says he can’t imagine living anywhere else. With two pre-teen children, he says most of his free time is spent driving them to their individual activities and attending special events. Still, he says his wife and children find time to take a spin in the motorhome to go camping and fishing.
“All the people who told me that time with your kids goes by fast weren’t kidding,” says Porter.