Generations on the Line

PUD Lineworker Follows in His Father’s Footsteps

By Rodger Nichols

Karl Wilson, a recent addition to the Northern Wasco County PUD line crew, enjoys the view from his outdoor office. Photo courtesy of NWCPUD.

One of Northern Wasco County PUD’s newest employees was born for the job.

Apprentice lineman Karl Wilson’s father, Jim, is a lineworker. Karl grew up with the opportunity to travel with Jim to various jobs around the region from their home in Dufur.

“He had just gotten his apprenticeship around the time that I was born,” Karl says. “As far back as I can remember, I was watching the helicopters fly around, getting to go out to the right-of-way and watching guys work in the bucket trucks.”

Karl says when he was younger, he didn’t think much about the future. That changed around his junior year in high school when he began thinking about line work.

“I’ve always found myself better swinging a hammer than keeping my head in the books or on computers and such,” he says. “I figured that was probably the best idea for me.”

After high school graduation, Karl attended Volta Line School in Warrenton, which led him to a series of industry jobs.

Karl, left, and his father, Jim, spend time away from work outdoors riding motorcycles. Photos courtesy of Karl Wilson.

“I’ve worked as a power line clearance tree trimmer for Asplundh in Hood River,” he says. “Then I worked for Wasco Electric Co-op as a groundsman and then apprentice lineman for about nine months.”

He joined NWCPUD in March as an apprentice lineman, with the opportunity to work for his father, who is the PUD foreman.

“This company is great,” Karl says. “The people, the atmosphere, the territory that we have, and the work that we’re doing. I have no complaints whatsoever. I love it here.”

When he’s not climbing poles or riding a lift truck, Karl relaxes by heading outdoors.

“There are obviously some days where you want to sit inside and lounge around, but I’m big on hunting and fishing, and ride motorcycles all the time,” he says. “I spend as much time as I can out in the mountains as opposed to at home or in the city. Anything outdoors is what I’m into.”

Karl owns 2 motorcycles: a Honda CRF 250R, which he calls a combination road bike and dirt bike, and a Yamaha 450F.

“That one’s more like a track bike,” he says. “It’s a little scary when you get out on the trails, but it’s fun at times.”

Karl says he lives in the perfect place for his love for the outdoors.

Karl was introduced to line work as a young boy. He now works for his father, the NWCPUD foreman.

“There are all kinds of different things to do around this area,” he says. “You’ve got the Columbia right there and the other rivers running into it. You’re not that far from the beach, and you’re close to Mount Hood. There’s everything that you could ask for, at least in my mind.”

On top of that is the joy he takes in his work.

“It may sound silly, coming from a young guy like myself to say that when you’re up there, working on the hooks that it just feels cool, but it does feel cool,” he says. “We’ve been working up on top of hills, where we can look out over The Dalles. It’s surreal that they pay us to do this type of stuff.”

Karl says that when he was younger, people asked him what his father did. He would reply, “He’s a lineman,” and they would respond, “What team does he play for?” He would have to explain that his dad was an electrical worker, not a football player.

Karl says many people think only people who go to college make good money. He says lineworkers earn more than many college graduates, they are always in demand and can find work anywhere.

One of Karl’s goals is to get the word about the profession out to more young people.

“I want to show kids about this trade and what you can accomplish through it, especially if you go through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union,” he says. “What it’s done for my dad and my family is amazing. So, I want to shed some light on it for people to understand what it is and that it’s a great job.

“The only way you grow as an industry and as a people is if you teach the experiences that are going to help somebody in the future.”