APS celebrates lineman appreciation day, one family’s story

Retired APS employee Elmer Alston and his son, current APS lineman Brian “Biscuit” Alston. (submitted photo)

Children often imagine their future across a range of different careers before ever deciding what they truly want to do for a living, but APS Lineman Brian Alston got his professional calling early.

Growing up on the Verde River as the son of an APS employee, Mr. Alston routinely explored the mountainous terrain and canyons near Fossil Creek and played in the shadow of the APS Childs-Irving hydroelectric plants.

Mr. Alston first saw linemen in action when he was just five years old — and it made an unforgettable impression.

“It was down in Childs-Irving that I saw line crews using a helicopter to set a pole,” he said in a prepared statement. “I knew — even at that young age — that was what I wanted to do.”

The Childs-Irving Hydroelectric power plants were originally built to help serve mining operations in the area, but over their near-100-year lifespan provided power to APS customers across the state. In 1991, the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Alston’s father, Elmer, a 25-year APS employee, was proud to see his son join the APS team. Based in Flagstaff, son Brian has now been with APS 14 years and is known among friends and colleagues as “Biscuit,” a nickname he earned on his first day as a pre-apprentice for his choice of breakfast sandwich.

Nicknames are common among linemen, with APS colleagues becoming more like family as they spend days, and sometimes weeks, away from home while working to maintain and restore power to more than 2.7 million Arizonans.

For the past 132 years, linemen like Mr. Alston have kept power flowing to Arizona businesses and families. Today, APS has more than 350 journeyman linemen and 70 apprentices throughout the state that work around the clock to keep Arizona’s electricity flowing. It is a specialized role that includes completing a four-year apprenticeship and hundreds of hours of classroom instruction and field training, plus maintaining physical fitness requirements, according to a press release.

While APS has more than 6,300 employees who work to keep the lights on, linemen have a unique status as the face that customers see the most, especially during monsoon season. Mr. Alston doesn’t take his job lightly, understanding that safety is of utmost importance.

“We are such a tight-knit group because of the work we do,” he said. “It requires us to really know each other and take each others’ safety into our own hands. I’ve got a little girl, she’s four and a half, and I remember leaving the house one day for a call-out, and as I was saying goodbye to her, she said, ‘Be safe, Dad.’ So even at a young age, she understands the inherent danger of the work.”

While Mr. Alston is a part of Arizona’s and APS’s future, he is also a special part of its history with his own family memory of when APS closed the Childs-Irving plants in 2008.

“The last day Childs was open, my dad and I attended a closing ceremony event,” Mr. Alston said. “I remember him tapping me on the shoulder and motioning for me to follow him. He took me to the Childs Plant and walked me through how to shut the plant down for the last time. It was such a special moment for the two of us, just there alone; it was truly the end of an era.”

July 10 is Lineman Appreciation Day, a special day to celebrate those who keep the lights on.

APS serves about 2.7 million people in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties, and is the Southwest’s foremost producer of clean, safe and reliable electricity, the press release stated.

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