PGE lineman Ryan Hagel prefers it when he gets called out to “a big old mess.” In fact, the more complicated the better. “You learn more,” he says, “and I love putting it all back together.”
Hagel has been a journeyman lineman since 2008, having worked his way up from hydro maintenance worker to groundman to truck driver before completing a three-year apprenticeship.
The award-winning pole climber says the combination of risk and helping people in need makes lineman work ideal for him. Hagel grew up a daredevil. “I like driving fast, I like climbing high, I like hunting,” he says. “That’s just the way I’m wired.”
Hagel and two teammates took home first-place honors in the speed climbing event at the 28th annual International Lineman’s Rodeo Oct. 15, 2011, in Kansas. He’s been participating in lineman rodeos — in which professional linemen compete in work-related contests of speed and skill like pin-and-glass change-out and pole climbing — for eight years.
While winning trophies is all good fun, Hagel really likes doing what he does best: restoring power to customers. He recalls an incident one Christmas Eve, when a giant oak tree fell, toppling two utility poles and ripping down large sections of wire. He and his crew worked through the night, and he got home just in time to watch his two children open Christmas presents.
“It’s just nice when you are bringing power back for people. They’re so thankful,” he says. “They’ll come out and talk to you; the kids will bring you homemade cookies and the parents will bring you coffee if it’s cold or ice water if it’s hot.”
Doing what you love
Hagel also enjoys the camaraderie he feels in the tight-knit group of linemen he’s trained and worked with for years. “I really feel it when we’re out dealing with a snowstorm,” he says. “We’re all there for each other, and we’re getting things fixed and working as a team.”
The feeling of becoming a lineman is still fresh in Hagel’s mind. “It’s a big deal anytime any one of us becomes a journeyman lineman. For me, it felt pretty great,” he remembers.
“It’s like graduation day and getting your dream job in one day — I knew at that point I would be doing the work I love for the rest of my life.”