Whether it was the first grade or eighth grade, the dream began early.
On December 17, 2021, that dream became reality for Jasper’s Mitchell Werner and Greensburg’s Waylan Case as they graduated from the North American Lineman Training Center.
Both claimed their diploma from the school in McEwen, Tennessee, with the help of a scholarship from Hoosier Energy. Werner and Case are the inaugural recipients of the W. Eugene Roberts and Daniel L. Schuckman Memorial Scholarships, respectively, a tribute to more than 35 years of dedicated service to Hoosier Energy and its members.
It is a third-generation dream come true for Werner, whose grandfather Eugene and father Matthew also worked as linemen. And he knew it early on in life.
“In first grade, we were asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” Werner recalled. “I drew a picture of a lineman because of my dad and grandpa.”
Tagging along on calls with his father only further solidified the desire, even as he hit middle school, the time most children are looking to go in their own direction.
“I stuck with it and once he knew I was serious in high school, then he started really helping me,” Werner said of his father.
But upon graduation from Jasper High School, Werner did go in a slightly different direction. Where his father broke into the business by signing on as an apprentice, the son opted to attend lineman school.
“It shows that you’re not messing around,” Werner said. “You spent (a lot of money) already, so they know this is something you want to do, that you’re serious about it.”
And he was serious about applying for a scholarship as well. Dubois REC director Joe Henson told Werner’s father about it, setting the wheels in motion.
“That money went straight to schooling,” said Werner, who still enjoys throwing a baseball, a sport he played in high school, as well as hunting and fishing. He even got his first experience trout fishing in Tennessee.
Now he’s beginning his first job, working for Duke Energy in Bloomington.
“I thought it was dream at first but then I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Werner said.
It’s a similar story for Case, although his dream began a little bit later in life.
His father, Alex, is an agricultural seed salesman whose clients are sometimes both farmers and linemen. So when Case showed interest in the electrical field as an eighth-grader, Alex mentioned the possibility of becoming a lineman.
“I was interested in welding or electrical work, but welding was being inside too much for me so I decided to pursue the lineman thing,” said Case, a graduate of Greensburg High School and member of Decatur County REMC.
He also had uncles who worked as electricians, so Case got some experience doing wiring. But he wanted to do more than go from the breaker to the outlets, he wanted to go from the power lines to the breaker.
Like Werner, Case looked at several schooling options, including Southeast Lineman Training Center in Trenton, Georgia. But the NALTC won out.
“They were there to help you,” Case said. “They really wanted you to learn something. And if I was going to do this, I wanted to do it right and do it safe.”
Earning the scholarship was an added bonus, even if it came with extra scrutiny.
“The instructors for the scholarship had us do a climbing evaluation and watched over us for several days to make sure we were the right fit,” Case said. “Anyone who goes to school is hurting for money or has a loan, so this was a good opportunity to help keep me afloat. It sure helps a lot.”
So will the job Case begins for Brink Constructors, a traveling contractor. Case will head to Colorado to begin his career and perhaps pursue his interests as an avid outdoorsman between shifts. Where it goes from there, who knows?
“I could be in an area for a few weeks or several months, living out of hotels and working a lot of hours,” he said. “Work on transmission lines for a while, then move somewhere different and work on more stuff.”