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News & Press: Member Co-op News

Rosales, the lineworker behind his name

Tuesday, December 27, 2016   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Shari Wormwood
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By Shari Wormwood, MREA Communication Specialist
When I started working at MREA in 2003, part of my responsibilities were to print rosters and fill name badges for the Winter Training Conference and other Safety and Loss Control events. I enjoyed seeing interesting names like Michael Seuss (which made me think about the Dr.) and Jack Daniels. Amid the work of correcting Career Development for Linemen tests and assisting the Loss Control Department, I would often wonder, “What are all of these people really like...What would it take to be a power line worker… Is the work as challenging as it seems?”  


The name Felix Rosales always stuck out for me because I remembered having a ‘Rosales’ in a class I taught in Elk River, Minn. I saw Felix Rosales attending Winter Training Conferences and consistently volunteering as a station trainer for the MREA Hotline School. While taking pictures at the Wadena Hotline School, I was introduced to Felix and afterwards, I asked if I could share his story about his work at Connexus Energy with our membership. The interview below, brings the name to life of a hardworking man dedicated to his family and profession. He has an interesting story about why he moved to Minnesota and his 30-year career as a power lineworker.    

                      Felix Rosales and his bucket truck 'Eleanor'

When did you move to the United States and what was your work before becoming a lineworker?

I moved to the United States in 1969 around Christmas time. Before I was a lineman, I was primarily a migrant worker. My family would travel to do this work. Right after high school, I had a short period where I worked at Goodyear, but when they laid me off, I ended up walking into a utility place that was looking to hire. It all came together from there.  

Did you go to line school and how did you receive your Journeyman status?
I went to an Electrical Lineworker program in Jackson, Minnesota, and then was hired on by Anoka Electric (Connexus Energy) as an apprentice. Four years later, I became a journeyman.

Was there someone influential in your life that encouraged you to pursue a career as a lineworker?
No, there was not. It was chance. However, when I went to line school in Jackson, I had an instructor Mr. Dale Smith, a former lineworker, who had a great impact on my life and career.

 

Can you tell me what you have enjoyed most about your career? 
I really love the variety and the challenges. You never go to work and encounter the same thing every day. I enjoy feeling like I play a small part in keeping a community going, along with all of the other city services. There is a great team at Connexus. Being in this field for over 30 years I have seen how it has evolved as well; the machinery, the safety…it’s pretty cool.

Was it difficult to break into a position within the energy field since your orgin was from another country? 
Since I moved to the United States as a young boy, by the time I was an adult going into this field I was already an American citizen and had become used to American culture. I had grown up during my most pivotal years in Texas. But I can tell you that at first it was challenging to come to Minnesota from down South in the 80’s and be the only person of a different ethnicity hired in a suburban town. Once everyone saw I really could do the job, and worked hard, everything was fine. But I did feel like I had to prove myself a little more than everyone else in the beginning. It didn’t take too long.

What have been some of the benefits of working in the energy industry?
It has been an exciting and challenging career that has enabled me to raise a family. I have had the opportunity to educate people in the public on electrical safety. I have been around to see many changes in the field, and have trained a few members of the next generation of linemen. Once again, I enjoy knowing that I play a part in keeping the community going. We do our share with other city and state workers. 

Did you ever travel out of the state or your territory to provide mutual aid assistance? Can you describe some of these experiences?
Yes, I’ve traveled with my team to South Dakota, Kentucky, and other states. When we get to a state in need it can look like a “disaster area.” Sometimes there are people who have been out of power and water for weeks. When you arrive in such a situation, you and your team feel obligated to help people and you wish you had more hours in the day so that you could still keep working. It is really discouraging when you have to stop working after you finish giving one house power…and then have to see their neighbor waiting and wondering if you are going to work just a little longer to get them on too. It is hard to leave people out of power when it is my job to turn it on. But in order to be safe and do our job right, we need to sleep and eat as sufficiently as possible. In Kentucky, I remember we had to spend Valentine’s Day there one year. We were helping in that state because they had an ice storm. I remember a little girl walked onto our site and brought us a Valentine that she colored just for us, and she said “Happy Valentine’s Day… thanks for helping us. “ That was cool.

Were you ever involved in a close call or have you witnessed an electrical accident?  If so, how did this change your work habits? 
I have never been involved in an accident or a close call. However, I have seen one down South before when I started this career in Texas. A man was electrocuted. It was a frightening experience and of all things… the smell is something I will never forget. It is indescribable. After I witnessed that horrible accident, it motivated me to look elsewhere for a safer company and get better training. In Texas, there was not enough education at that time for utility workers, but in Minnesota there was. 

Please share a little about your family.
My family is from Castaños, Mexico. We moved to the United States when I was eight years old. I was raised in Texas in a large migrant family with nine kids. I now have a wife who I met in Texas and we have been married for 30 years, we have two children, and two grand babies. 

 

Did you encourage your children to pursue a career in Energy?
No. Because my children were born in Minnesota, had a good education, and were fluent in English from the beginning, they had the opportunity to discover their own career paths. I wanted that. My daughter now has her own practice in the Psychology field and my son works as a Distribution Design Engineer at a large utility company. I am happy if they are.

How has the electric utility industry changed over the past 30 years?
Safety has definitely been the #1 change. It has changed for the better to be more specific. There have been many upgrades in our safety equipment over the past 30 years. In addition, more hydraulic tools and innovative machinery that help make our job more efficient and safe as well. There are also more line schools in the nation to get people prepared for the job. 

If you could give a word of advice to high school students about the utility industry, what would that be?
I would say that the utility industry, particularly line work, is a wonderful career to get involved in. I have no regrets in choosing this career for myself. I would also tell them that a post-secondary education, even an associate’s degree plus this career will put you in a way better position for even more opportunities in this field. Reading, writing, communication and computer skills propel you even further in the energy field than being a lineman. Why is this important to consider? Labor is hard work, especially in the Minnesota terrain. Having some education on top of line school would put you in a great position if you feel like you want a change when you’re older, if life changes happen, or if you get injured.

Comments...

Eloise Thorson, Central Lakes College says...
Posted Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Felix was one of the many lineworkers from Connexus that completed the MREA Leadership Program that I facilitate. I remember him as a dedicated, enthusiastic, and friendly employee. His story is an excellent example of the great people who put their lives on the line daily to make sure we all have reliable power. Thanks to Felix and his fellow lineworkers across the state and region!. Eloise Thorson
Jim Kuyper, Sioux Valley Energy says...
Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2016
This is a great story on a great guy that i had the privilege and opportunity to go to line school with in Jackson MN. Jim Kuyper

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