Stanly County resident qualifies for International Lineman’s Rodeo

He may not be the “Wichita Lineman” that Glen Campbell sang about, but Aaron Smith is headed to Kansas thanks to his lineworking skills.

The Richfield resident recently qualified for the International Lineman’s Rodeo & Expo in October in the Kansas cities of Overland Park and Bonner Springs.

“The annual event has attracted the best lineworkers from around the world for decades and is not exclusive to Duke Energy,” said Smith, who has been a lineworker with Duke for 16 years.

“It includes lineworkers from multiple countries and many utilities, co-ops and municipalities,” he added. “Participants — including line teams and individuals — compete in events that test job-related skills, including equipment repair, pole climbs, hurt-man rescues and mystery events designed to simulate unexpected challenges experienced on a job. Competitors are judged on speed, agility, technique and safety procedures.”

Smith has competed in lineman rodeos for 14 years, making it to the international level eight times. He qualified this year through the Duke Energy Carolinas rodeo on March 23. There are also Duke Energy Florida and Duke Energy Midwest competitions participants can qualify through. The top winners go to compete against the “best lineworkers in the world,” Smith said.

“We get to compete in the rodeo with the people we work alongside every day, which really helps with our camaraderie,” Smith said. “It’s a friendly competition, but we’re also really focused and can get really competitive, so when you’re competing on a team with your colleagues, it helps build an even better relationship with your team. In this line of work where safety is so critical, trust is vital, and this helps us build that trust on an even greater level. It’s like extra teambuilding outside of work.”

Smith is a second generation lineworker. His father, Randy Smith of Oakboro, retired from Union Power Cooperative. He was a state pole top rescue champion in the N.C. Cooperatives Lineman Rodeo.

His dad is why he entered the business.

“I grew up watching my dad go to work every day as a lineworker, so I was influenced and just gravitated in that direction,” he said. “Once you get hooked, there’s nothing like it.”

Duke Energy considers Smith’s role “one of the most critical” in the company.
“He and his team are tasked with keeping the lights on, restoring power safely and quickly when it does go out, and helping to build the future grid,” Duke Energy Lead Communications Manager Logann Stewart Kureczka said. “Competing at the International Lineman’s Rodeo means that Aaron is one of the most skilled in his field in the world. Duke Energy is extremely proud he chose our company, and of his dedication to his work and our customers.”

Smith would recommend the work to others.

“It’s not a job for the faint of heart, but we always put safety first,” Smith said. “Line work will return however much you put into it, and it’s a good, honest line of work and will allow you to take care of your family.

“This is a career where trust is of the utmost importance. You trust your coworkers with your life every day, and we build relationships that last a lifetime.”

B.J. Drye is general manager/editor of The Stanly News & Press. Call 704-982-2123.