When a storm strikes, Alabama Power line crew chief Willie Turner is first on the scene

When a storm strikes, Alabama Power line crew chief Willie Turner is first on the scene
It's not for everybody, but being an Alabama Power lineman and crew leader has been a perfect fit for Willie Turner. (Karim Shamsi-Basha)

During his 36-year career, Willie Turner has worked in many different departments at Alabama Power, which makes him an experienced crew leader and a well-rounded lineman.

In the weeks leading up to June 6, Alabama Lineman Appreciation Day, Alabama Power and Alabama NewsCenter are highlighting the good work that linemen (and women) do every day to keep the lights on.

This month, Transmission & Distribution World magazine profiled one of Alabama Power’s experienced linemen, Willie Turner. You can read his story here, in his own words. Learn more about the magazine at www.tdworld.com. (Story used with permission from Transmission & Distribution World magazine.)

Early years

My uncle, Robert Turner, worked for Alabama Power in the early 1970s as one of the first black meter readers. He intro­duced me to the company, and I got a job in 1980 with build­ing services. I cleaned and buffed floors, cleaned bathrooms and took out trash. I then became a utility man at the ware­house, and I was responsible for unloading washers and dryers as part of our utility’s appliance sales business.

Next, I worked as a truck driver and chipper on the tree crew, where I learned how to cut and fall trees, and tie many different types of knots, which comes in handy. It was hard work, but it was interesting.

I then transferred to the Transmission Department, where I worked as a truck driver. I had the opportunity to practice climbing poles in my free time, and I enjoyed it so much that I applied to be an apprentice. In 1986, I entered the apprentice­ship program, and on my first day, I had to climb a 105-foot wood pole. After working on a district crew for about a year, I came back to the transmission crew as a lineman in 1988 and have been here ever since.

Day in the life

In 2002, I became a crew leader, and I have been working in this position for the last 14 years. I am responsible for task assignment and safe work practices for the assigned task. I am responsible for understanding the broad goals of the crew and directing them. During storm trouble, I am generally the first man on the scene. I determine, with the crew, what material and equipment will be needed. I also handle all the paper­work — time sheets, expenses and other reports — required to close a work order. A good crew leader is the crew’s chief team builder, counselor and mentor.

Safety lesson

Following a storm, a substation experienced an outage, and a crew was working on a transformer to make it hot. Un­fortunately, a young man on the substation crew working in Oneonta got burned, and that stuck with me. Safety is one thought at a time. You can never forget about it.

Memorable storms

I have been involved with a lot of restorations in Alabama, and I think our people are at their best when we have trouble. When looking back on my career, a few severe weather events stand out, the blizzard of 1993 and the tornadoes of 2011. They were both impactful, because we had a lot of devastation and a lot of lines and poles down. The tornadoes came through early in the morning. Just as we finished getting everything back up, a second storm with more tornadoes came through in the afternoon, and they did a lot of damage. We worked long hours, and it was hard on everybody. Thankfully, no accidents occurred over the entire week.

Life in the line trade

This job is not for everyone, and not everyone wants to be a lineman. If you are capable to do this job, however, you can make a good living. I have been able to raise three kids, and they all were able to attend college. This industry has been good to me.

Plans for the future

I’d like to go with my wife to Alaska on a cruise, and may­be Hawaii. We also look forward to spending more time with family in Ohio and Munford, Alabama.

About Willie Turner

  • Born in Talladega.
  • Married to his wife, Patricia, for 41 years. They have three children: a daughter, Mashonda, and two sons, Willie Jr. and Kevin.
  • Is the first lineman in his family.
  • Enjoys fishing and watching his seven grandchildren play softball, baseball and basketball.
  • Inspired by Jesus Christ, the greatest gift from God.
  • Can’t live without the bucket truck.

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