Name: Mike Fisher, retiree
Title: Supervisory Lineman
Location: Bismarck, North Dakota
Region: Upper Great Plains
When did you start working with WAPA? I started my career with the Bureau of Reclamation in 1955 as a groundsman, apprentice lineman and truck driver. In 1966, I transferred to Jamestown, North Dakota, as a journeyman lineman. I started with WAPA when it was formed in 1977 under the Carter administration. After that, I transferred to Glendive, Montana, and served as a foreman for 12 years. Finally, I moved back home to Bismarck, North Dakota and retired from WAPA in 1989.
What is the most interesting thing you have worked on with WAPA? The most interesting thing for me was flying line patrol while at Bismarck. Back then, we would fly fixed-wing aircraft and would patrol three days a month. The journeymen at the time said they didn't want to fly, so they opened it up to supervisors and I jumped at the opportunity. After a while, we switched to helicopters. In the summertime, I would take the door off the helicopter and fly the line; that is what I enjoyed the most. I was also one of first ten people to get my bare-hand certification in North Dakota.
What do you wish people understood about your job and the work you do? Back then everything was done climbing towers, and you really hung on by your toenails. At times, we'd joke that we were higher in the air than people would travel from their homes. We worked in all types of conditions. When you have a line go down during a storm you'd either have a lot of snow or be in mud up to your eyeballs. We spent a good deal of time winching vehicles out of the mud. During World War II, they made plastic matting for temporary air strips. We managed to get our hands on some of that and we would use it move our trucks through the mud. It was hard to work in those conditions, and bitter cold. We would come down off the tower and put our hands on the other guy's face to warm it. Some people would even wear Bunny boots from the Korean War, because their feet would be so cold. People should appreciate the crews that are working outside to keep the lights on, because the conditions can be very harsh.
Tell us something about yourself we wouldn't find on your resume. I love to travel. When I was younger I had a boat and would fish on the Missouri river. I have a Fifth Wheel and I travel to Montana every chance I get, at least three or four times a year. I am also involved in veterans' projects, and am a past commander for Disabled American Veterans and AMVETS. I had the opportunity to serve on the administrative committee for veterans' affairs. I had to be approved by the governor of North Dakota, and I served two consecutive years.
How is what you do tied to WAPA's mission? Since I was on the line crew, our primary concern was to keep the power on. Back then, if it was out, the entire community was out; it is not looped like it is today. Our biggest concern was always getting the power back on, which is directly tied to WAPA's mission.