The American Public Power Association’s (APPA) Lineworkers Rodeo is the Olympics of electric linemen – the ultimate test of skill in the profession. Colorado Springs is fortunate to host this year’s event March 29-30.
On the heels of the March 12, 2019, 'bomb cyclone' that pulled trees into electric lines and temporarily knocked out power to thousands, the event couldn't be more relevant.
According to Colorado Springs Utilities employee competitors, there is pride in winning, but no matter the final scores, the true winners will be our electric customers. That’s because competitors learn new skills, efficiencies and safety standards – all of which influence how quickly and safely power is restored.
Springs Utilities linemen Tyler DiMenza, John Rombeck and Cody Strong compose one of five, 3-person teams at this year’s rodeo, along with seven apprentices who will compete in individual events.
Rodeo events run the gamut from the popular “hurtman rescue” to the more technical-sounding endeavors such as the “12kv Pole Transfer”. Competitors are rated based on time and number of errors committed, among other factors.
No matter the name of the event, the competition is intense. In fact, this year’s rodeo is expected to include more than 400 competitors from around the nation, making it one of the largest ever.
Typical of all Springs Utilities lineworkers, DiMenza, Rombeck and Strong possess years of experience in the field and the technical talent and physical skills required to perform their jobs at a high level. In fact, all three have recently received promotions – DiMenza is now a foreman, Rombeck is now an electric training coordinator and Strong has achieved journeyman status after five years as an apprentice.
Rombeck and DiMenza have deep ties to the local community. For example, both men graduated from Coronado High School and have spent the last 15 years at Springs Utilities. Additionally, both have parents who worked for Springs Utilities and retired from the organization.
“I can’t help but see Springs Utilities as an extension of my family,” says DiMenza. “My mom worked at the organization for many years and most of my family still lives here, so we’re customers too. Serving the community as a lineman is very satisfying, especially when we’re able to restore power quickly and safely – it makes us feel like we’re making a difference in peoples’ lives.”
Strong is a six-year employee of Springs Utilities and a native of South Dakota. Prior to his arrival at Springs Utilities, he spent time as a lineworker in Alaska and Wyoming.
“Having worked for companies in other communities, it makes me appreciate my fellow teammates at Springs Utilities even more,” says Strong. “There’s a great comradery here – everyone looks out for each other -- and I think that’s one of many reasons we perform well in the field and why we’ve had some success in these linemen rodeos.”
According to DiMenza, the comradery mentioned by Strong is critical because it fosters effective communication – a vital component to safe and efficient linework.
“I probably see these guys more than my own family,” says DiMenza. “So, communicating well is a foundational issue for us. We have to communicate and relate well to one another, both in the field and in competitions. In the field, it can be the difference between life and death, and in a rodeo, it’s often the difference between winning and losing.”