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Fort Pierce Utilities Female Lineworker Discusses Profession, Rodeo Competition

As she prepares to join the growing ranks of female public power utility lineworkers, Rylee Gunn, an apprentice with Florida public power utility Fort Pierce Utilities Authorities, gained valuable experience while participating in the APPA Lineworkers Rodeo in Lafayette, Louisiana, this month.

When she completes her apprenticeship, Gunn will join the ranks of female journeyman lineworkers from public power utilities including South Carolina’s Santee Cooper, North Carolina’s Fayetteville Public Works Commission, and Ohio’s Cleveland Public Power.

Rylee Gunn works atop a utility pole during the APPA Lineworkers Rodeo.

Asked how she found her way into the field, Gunn laughed, “I actually grew up in a fabrication shop, and my whole family is full of welders. And I just didn’t like it!” She further explained that the shop would work on bucket trucks, which is how she first met lineworkers and became interested in the work.

Gunn, who began her apprenticeship about six months ago, has enjoyed seeing tangible improvement every day. “I’ve always been a hands-on person,” she said, and “it’s cool…creating something brand new or fixing something that’s been damaged.”

Operating in an overwhelmingly male field has also not fazed her. Asked about her time in linework and rodeo competition, Gunn exclaimed, “I love it! I’m here for myself—I’m not here for anybody else.” She also noted the camaraderie of lineworkers, which can be seen everywhere from these competitions to mutual aid responses in the wake of storms or other disasters. Gunn continued, “I get along great with all the guys I work with, my coach is really awesome, and the other apprentice I’m here with—if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d be half as good as I am.” 

While this was Gunn’s first APPA Lineworkers Rodeo, she previously competed in February’s Florida Lineman Competition hosted by the Florida Municipal Electric Association and JEA. She said she felt most confident in the APPA Lineworkers Rodeo’s Single Phase Conductor Tie In with Armor Rods event but acknowledged that competing is “different than when you’re practicing at home.”

When asked for the highlight of her competition, Gunn responded, “Coming down and just getting high fives and being told ‘good job,’ it’s reassuring—it’s rewarding. So I would say that’s the best part.”

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