LUNENBURG — Over 30,000 Unitil customers in Fitchburg, Ashby, Lunenburg and Townsend rely on both internal and third-party line crews to keep power flowing to their homes and businesses.
To recognize the importance of utility workers, Unitil joined the country in celebrating National Lineman Appreciation Day on April 18. The day commemorating the people who keep the lights and power on was passed by the 113th U.S. Congress following the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“We are so appreciative of the work our lineworkers do, especially during storms, so it is only fitting that a national day be set aside marking the important work they do keeping our lights on,” said Alec O’Meara, manager, External Affairs at Unitil.
It is following storm outages when Unitil’s Todd Gauvin and his fellow linemen feel the most appreciated.
“The vast majority of our customers are so grateful when power is restored following a storm; it provides a great deal of satisfaction,” Gauvin said.
Gauvin, who has been with the company for 12 years, said that he and his colleagues really enjoy the work because power is so central to everyday living. He hadn’t planned on getting into the industry, but it was happenstance that led him to a career as a lineman.
The Fitchburg native said it was a conversation with a coworker’s roommate and an economic downturn that plugged him into the utility business. He was finishing up his computer science degree at Fitchburg State University when the dotcom meltdown hit the industry, portending a bleak job market.
Gauvin was working full-time at a warehouse when a coworker’s roommate shared with him that he just graduated from an apprenticeship program to become a lineman. “It seemed like a great career option,” Gauvin said. He signed up for the same program through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which prepares apprentices to become a journeyman lineman.
After taking an aptitude test, IBEW set Gauvin up with paid on-the-job training, at-home study, and classroom instruction, which took about 7,000 hours over 3 ½ years to complete. “My training was with a third-party independent contractor that specialized in building new construction electrical systems for a large regional utility company,” Gauvin said. He ended up staying with the company for 10 years before joining Unitil. Gauvin also added that he was able to complete the program in less time due to accruing so many hours during the five weeks spent in New Orleans restoring power after Hurricane Katrina.
“It is rewarding and I definitely enjoy the work, especially being outdoors on most days,” Gauvin said. “It can also be challenging on cold days or when we must go out late at night or weekends, but there is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from keeping the power flowing 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”