Adams retires after 41 total years of service to WEC
Since 1974, Danny Adams has witnessed several changes in Wiregrass Electric Cooperative’s operations, including the arrival of computers, mobile phones, and bucket trucks.
“Back in those days, we didn’t have any bucket trucks. The only thing we had was a pair of hooks. If you came to a pole that was bad, you tied it to the truck and climbed it anyway,” he says. “Looking back, having to climb like we did and how we had to work back then, I couldn’t do it now. Back then, I didn’t know any different.”
When Adams retired in September, he reflected on several events and the growth WEC has experienced in the past 46 years — 41 of which he worked with the cooperative. One thing, however, didn’t change: WEC’s commitment to community.
“Former General Manager Bruce Dyess wanted you to join the fire department or be a part of the rescue squad or do whatever you want to be a part of the community,” he says. “A cooperative is different. The public looks at us in a different way. Power is power, but with a cooperative, you’ve got a voice.”
Born to be a Lineman
After graduating high school, Adams approached his neighbor, WEC Samson District Supervisor Billy Blalock, about job opportunities within the cooperative. While Blalock didn’t have anything available immediately, he offered Adams a position doing line work a few months later.
“I didn’t know anything about power, about electricity. I was just a young kid,” Adam says. “He took a chance on me, and I wasn’t going to let him down. I gave him everything I had.”
Adams thrived during his long career at WEC, which was interrupted only by a five-year break in the early 1980s when he worked for a gas utility. He eventually advanced through the linemen ranks to a job in the metering department. After he returned to line work for a time, WEC promoted him to a plant specialist position in the engineering department in 1999.
In that role, Adams helped the cooperative factor in infrastructure needs and potential obstacles before connecting a new home or address to the WEC grid. Obstacles include things like swimming pools and septic systems.
“You have to know the linework part before you do what I did,” Adams says. “You’ve got to know the line part and the specifications.”
Someone with his skill set could have worked in a variety of industries, but after returning to WEC in 1985, leaving for any other job never crossed Adams’ mind. In fact, he always returned to line work during emergencies like Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Ivan.
“It gets in your blood, and you don’t want to do anything else,” he says. “It’s a way of life. It’s all you want to do.”
During his 41 years, Adams observed many significant changes in how WEC completed the task of electrifying rural southeastern Alabama. Bucket trucks arrived in late 1975 after Operations Superintendent Howard Kinsaul witnessed visiting cooperative crews use them effectively following Hurricane Eloise.
“He saw how much work you could do with a bucket truck and how much less time it took. He ordered them right after that,” Adams says, noting bucket trucks also improved occupational safety. “One bucket with the visiting cooperatives could do more in a day than all of our crews could in a week. He saw the writing on the wall.”
Computers — and eventually tablets and mobile phones — also revolutionized operations. In the mid- to late-1970s, every member’s information and billing statements were kept in large volumes printed every 30 days. “You had to go to that book to reference how much a bill was,” he says. “That was the only record you had.
“Now, a member can come in and the member services representatives can pull up anything with a snap of the finger. The way we engineer jobs has changed. I can do it on my mobile phone, and it sends the points where you set the poles back to the office.”
Adams says those changes have only served WEC members better.
“We have no more people working here than we did in 1974, but the time without power during an outage is a lot less than it was,” he says. “It all makes a difference.”
While the methods have changed, WEC’s member-driven focus and investment in community has always remained, Adams says.
“The management people and the board, they really push the cooperative way of life. This is home. You raise your kids in the community,” he says. “With us, if you come in and apply for service, within a week’s time you can have power. With a big company, it might take you a month. That’s the difference.”
And it’s that feeling of community Adams will miss most in retirement, although he will enjoy spending time with his wife, Joann, and their grandchildren.
“I’ll miss everything, not only the people I work with but also the people I meet out in the public every day,” he says. “It’s gonna take some getting used to. Once it gets in your blood, it’s hard to lay it down.”