UCNSB journeyman J.J. Keating practices for the FMEA lineman rodeo at Pershing.

OUC’s Pershing Technical Training Facility is the place to be for municipal utility line workers preparing to compete in the upcoming Florida Municipal Electric Association’s Florida Lineman Competition.

Since early February, a team of four journeymen and two apprentices with the Utilities Commission of City of New Smyrna Beach (UCNSB) has been practicing every Thursday at Pershing. New Smyrna Beach linemen are using OUC’s training facility because “we don’t have anything like this,” said the crew’s foreman, Paul Pilblad. “You all have a nice facility over here.”

Pilblad said his team will go to a daily training schedule the week leading up the annual lineman rodeo, March 13-14, in Tallahassee.

As OUC’s Senior Electric Technical Trainer, James Alexander oversees the training facility. He said a retired OUC  journeyman now working with UCNSB called him and asked about using  the yard. “Of course we’re willing to help them,” he said. “We all work together during storms and help each other out. The rodeo is a competition, no doubt about it, however, it’s more important to build camaraderie.”

James said rodeo teams with Lakeland Electric and Ocala Utility Services are expected to practice at the Pershing yard, too.

OUC is sending four three-member journeymen teams, six apprentices (line workers with no more than four years of experience) and six judges to the rodeo. It’s OUC Foreman Richard Boley’s job to “ramrod” team members into top competitors.

“We haven’t won since 2012, so I’m trying to get these boys in shape to bring home a championship,” Boley said. “I believe we’ll be very competitive.”