A view from the top: Why I do what I do

Robert “Doo” Chandler

When the lights go out, so do our lineworkers. Regardless of the day or time, these dedicated men and women answer the call to bring relief to those in need.
In honor of Lineman Appreciation Day (April 18), we wanted to give you, our members, a better understanding of the life of a CAEC lineman and his family. Recently, we had the chance to talk with Robert “Doo” Chandler, Journeyman Lineman at CAEC’s East Operations Center (EOC), and his wife, Tabitha, about their experiences as a lineworker couple, the ups and downs of the field and their advice to others considering this industry.

Before arriving at CAEC, Doo had never really considered linework as a career, but after talking to a friend who’d recently attended lineman school, he decided to give it a try. He was immediately hooked, and after completing his training at the Southeast Lineman Training Center in Trenton, Ga., he began his career with CAEC on Dec. 7, 2015.
Throughout his time as a lineman, Doo said he’s gained valuable experience working with his fellow CAEC linemen and with numerous others from sister cooperatives.

“You can build a powerline a totally different way than another lineman based on how you were taught, but you end up with the same end result,” he said. “There’s more than one way to do it, so you’ve just got to figure out your way and if you’re younger, just listen and learn from those around you.”

While he’s learned a lot over the years, he’s also had the opportunity to speak with members and those outside the co-op world about what his job entails; and while it’s true that more people are becoming aware of what lineworkers do, there are still a few misconceptions. For instance, when discussing linework with those outside the industry, Doo said people are surprised to realize just how often lineworkers are away from their families.

“People don’t realize that when a storm comes through, I may see my wife and kids for maybe an hour a day if I’m lucky,” he said. “And most of the time, the kids are already in bed by the time I get home. Sometimes, we don’t even go home.”

When the time does come for Doo and his crew to face the storms, his wife, Tabitha, and their two sons hold down the fort at home. Even though she’s incredibly proud of her husband for the work he does, she does admit it can be hard sometimes playing the role of temporary single parent when the storms arrive.

Tabitha said she’s relieved to see her husband enjoy his work, but she can’t help but worry as he and his coworkers head into potentially dangerous environments day in and day out.

“I just have to stop being selfish for a second and appreciate the fact that even though I’m home by myself with the kids, he loves his job, and he gets to help other people who are actually in crisis,” she said. “The fact that he loves it and is going out there helping them as fast as he can is really rewarding to him. He’s passionate about being able to help people in their times of need, and I’m glad he’s working where people need him more.”

During his time with CAEC, Doo has had the opportunity to travel across the state and nation to lend a hand to sister co-ops in need. What’s stuck with him the most through these visits is how incredibly thankful people are to see the lineworkers arrive.

One particular trip that came to mind was in North Carolina after Hurricane Michael. He recalls everyone they came in contact with was ready and willing to help them, and they even received personalized drawings and musical concerts from local children while there.

“Nobody complained, nobody asked when the power would be back on and if you walked into a gas station to get something to eat or drink, they wouldn’t let you even pull your wallet out,” he said.

Even when long days stretch into longer nights and he’s been away from his family for days, Doo said seeing the outpouring of support from the communities makes it all worth being there. He adds that CAEC’s communities, especially, are always quick to offer food, water and kind words when they find the guys out in the field.
“The money’s good when you sign up to go out of town, but when you go to a place where they genuinely care and really need the work you provide, it makes it worth being there and being away from your family,” he said.

Not only are the communities extremely supportive, but Doo said his fellow linemen and coworkers have also been constant sources of support through the years. Tabitha adds that having that community has been such an incredible asset to them, and this bonus family they’ve gained quickly became her favorite part of Doo’s career.

Doo and Tabitha have been married since 2017 and have two sons.

“The co-op people are absolutely amazing,” she said. “When we’ve needed them most, they’ve stepped up to help cover shifts last-minute or cook meals for us in times of need. These people are my favorite part of this industry as well as some of our closest friends.”

In her experience, Tabitha said one of the most important pieces of advice she would offer to lineworker spouses is to prioritize establishing that sense of community, and when new people come along, be the first person to welcome them to the family.

“It’s important to have this co-op family as they often can be supportive more than those outside the industry because they are experiencing it, too,” she said. “Yes, we’re worried about our babies and our home, but we’re also always worried about our husbands. They’re out in the middle of it when it’s going on and we depend on this close community during the hardships, as well as the good times of the job.”

For a more in-depth conversation with Doo and his fellow linemen, check out the Central Connection Podcast by clicking here.