Archived Story

Progress 2011: Electricity Men

Published 12:00pm Thursday, March 3, 2011

They came.

Rich Harriman, left, and Gene Pederson, left.Photo by Tim Engstrom/ Cutout by Stacey Bahr

Linemen from electricity cooperatives from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin descended on Albert Lea on June 18, a day after Freeborn County had been hit hard by tornadoes. Of course, all the Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services linemen had been called out right after the tornadoes came through.

They did as much as they could that night, said linemen Gene Pederson and Rich Harriman, to assess the damage and get areas without damage but without power to have power. After all, there weren’t people staying overnight at the damaged homes.

Pederson said all the linemen with Freeborn-Mower became crew leaders when the outside help arrived.

“It was good help. They just jumped right in,” Harriman said.

The crews got the main lines working. Then they built new power lines where the old equipment was destroyed.

Harriman and Pederson praised the volunteers with local churches and with the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross. These people brought food and water to the power line workers.

Harriman said all the people who needed service were back in service by June 19.

Hero: Rich Harriman

Secret identity: lineman
Base of operations: Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services

A crew of linemen work on rebuilding power poles and power lines in the Lerdal area on June 18. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Superpowers: dedicated to the job of getting service back
Kryptonite: walleye fishing
Affiliations: wife, Judy; daughters Becky Griffiths of Albert Lea and Jenny Gast of Mason City, Iowa; four grandchildren
Origin: After growing up in Osseo, Wis., he married and had children but felt there was no future in his career. He looked at courses, liked being outside, and enrolled in a one-year program at a school in Eau Claire, Wis., to become a lineman. He got the position at Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services in May 1987.

Hero: Gene Pederson

Secret identity: meter technician/lineman
Base of operations: Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services
Superpowers: system knowledge, three-phase power loads, metering
Kryptonite: woodworking, carpentry
Affiliations: wife, Linda; sons Troy, 40, of Owatonna and Ryan, 37, of Hartland
Origin: He graduated from New Richland-Hartland High and worked as an electrician’s apprentice before enrolling at the Dunwoody Institute — now Dunwoody College of Technology — in Minneapolis. He climbed poles for a phone company one summer and became interested in the job of lineman. He applied at Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services and got the job in January 1968.

Hero: lift truck

Secret identity: 1998 International 4700
Base of operations: Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services
Superpowers: bucket can be raised to the tops of power poles
Kryptonite: salted roads
Origin: It is the second oldest truck in the FMCS fleet.