In this Life on the Line blog post, meet Curtis Bradley, owner of Premier Line Consulting, who has been in the electric utility industry since 2005. With experience as a journeyman lineman, substation electrician, and lineman trainer, Curtis is inspiring the future generations of lineman across Mississippi and beyond. Read on to find out more about Curtis' story, his aspirations for the industry, and a few tips if you're considering joining the trade.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into the utility industry?
Curtis: “I was raised by a hard-working, faithful, and loving mother and grew up in a small town, Pachuta, Mississippi. As a teenager, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and started pursuing a degree I wasn’t passionate about and was eventually placed on academic probation at the community college I was attending.
During this stressful time, my girlfriend and I were expecting our first child. After a lot of prayer and sleepless nights, I made the decision to work in a trade because I loved being outside. I graduated from Meridian Community College in 2004 with a certificate in Industrial Maintenance and Associate of Arts, and a Bachelor's degree in Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) from Columbia Southern University. An opportunity with Mississippi Power Company presented itself in August of 2005 where I started as an apprentice lineman. I worked my way up to Journeyman lineman and then furthered my experience and education as a substation electrician.
I have been blessed to build several community college lineman programs—East Central Community College (Weekend Lineman Program), Meridian Community College Lineman Program, and I consulted with Jones College.
I have been married for 17 years to my high school sweetheart, Christena Brown-Bradley and we have two beautiful children, Donovan is 19 years old and attends Mississippi State University and Cadence is 9 years old. When I’m not working, I love spending time with family, taking long walks with my wife, fishing, cutting grass, relaxing vacations, and watching a good movie.”
Q: Has anyone in your family been a lineman?
Curtis: “I am proud to say, I am a first-generation lineman. In the community I grew up in, no one talks about starting a career in the powerline industry and it is viewed as highly dangerous and very demanding. In my community, people worked on the pipeline, offshore, or drove eighteen-wheelers. My goal is to educate as many people as possible about the electrical utility industry. This is a life-changing career that can positively change not only your children’s life but also their grandchildren's as well.”
Q: Tell us, what are you most proud of about your job?:
Curtis: “To help those that are unsure about what they want to do in life. It’s very rewarding to empower individuals to think differently about themselves and establish a strong work ethic and achievable goals. I am also proud to have the ability to train at a pre-apprenticeship level. Then once my students start in the industry, train them until they achieve lineman status. It’s a true blessing to work a full-time job during the week training apprentices and a part-time job training pre-apprentices on the weekend.”
Q: Are there things you wish you could change about the job?
Curtis: “Yes, I wish the culture would change regarding safety and training. This is a fast-paced industry and we need to place more emphasis on employee safety, not production. I understand that production is important and without it, no one gets paid, and the lights wouldn’t get turned on, but it needs to be a win-win for the employer and the employee. I also wish pre-apprentice programs had more funding.
I would love to see more diversity within the industry, and this can only change by educating and training underserved communities about job opportunities in their local area. I would also like to see an increase in gender diversity through the different segments of the electrical utility industry. We have the resources to put people to work and I know the path to get them there. One day, I hope to share it with the world and make a positive impact in my region and the industry.”
Q: How do you manage the crazy schedule and calls where you often have to drop everything? Who helps you to take care of life at home while you’re away?
Curtis: “Very simple, I don’t waste time nor procrastinate when work needs to be done. The days of leaving on callouts are no longer my way of life. Now, all my work is scheduled with out-of-state meetings and weekend training events. But, with me still being gone, my amazing wife handles the kids, home, and after-hour activities with grace and understanding. This life really puts a strain on marriages from time to time, but through prayer, faith, effort, love, and hope everything works out every time. I would also like to thank my mother (Brenda), mother-in-law (Sandra), and my four amazing sisters-in-law, Kim, Melissa, Tourean, and Britany for the countless times you picked my kids up from daycare, after-school, practice, and unexpected callouts and storm trips. People don’t realize when you become a lineworker, your family does too.”
Q: What are some things customers or employers have done to show their appreciation for your hard work?
Curtis: “My customers, who I am referring to as the industry, have shown their appreciation by offering job opportunities to my students attending my weekend lineman program. I never received anything more than a job well done. As a lineman, one of the greatest gifts of appreciation was a plate of warm homemade cookies while working on an ice storm in Arkansas. Now since I am doing consulting, companies like J.L.Matthews and others are offering me opportunities to share my story and reach those who never would be considered a line worker, and for that, I am eternally grateful.”
Q: What was the longest storm duty streak that you’ve worked?:
Curtis: “The longest storm trip I worked on was Hurricane Katrina. My start date was August 29, 2005. The same day Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the gulf coast. It was crazy because I didn’t hear from my employer for over two weeks because of the intensive damage that had taken place. Going into my third week of faithful waiting, I received a phone call to start work and my first storm trip took place in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area. I couldn’t sleep the night before due to the excitement and overtime that was projected for this trip. But that soon went away once I finally got there and saw the complete devastation that awaited us. Buildings, pets, and people were missing, and it seemed that all hope was lost. This is when I understood and accepted the responsibility of being a “Brother’s Keeper” and how working safely allowed me to go home every day. So, we rotated every other week rebuilding the gulf coast for approximately 3 to 4 months.”
Q: What are some of your favorite products by J.L. Matthews?
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering joining the electrical utility industry?
Curtis: "Starting at a pre-apprentice line school is so critical to your progression and knowledge once you enter the industry.
Find someone in the industry you can talk to. The more questions you ask the better understanding you will have.
Your safety is the most important thing while working on the job or at home. You must strive to be safe every day. You must display a positive attitude every day. The hardest challenge you will be faced with every day is resisting the urge to take a shortcut. So always do your best to do what’s right.
Lastly, I would recommend that everyone wanting to get into the industry should be flexible in the opportunities they are looking for. Everyone can’t work locally. Your goal is to get experience and once that has taken place, then opportunities will present themselves. So, work hard, take pride in your work, and have a positive attitude.”