Adam Uptegrove grew up in Prosser, Washington, doing many of the same things that a lot of young men in Prosser do, fishing, hunting, and playing High School football. Prosser is making a name for itself as a regional wine producer these days, but it has been putting out great High School football teams for decades.
Adam has been with Columbia Rural Electric Association (REA) for nearly 11 years, almost eight years as a journeyman lineman, three as an apprentice. He is a quiet, well-spoken, no-nonsense guy who doesn’t much like talking about himself. It’s no surprise that he played some pretty good football under legendary coach Tom Moore, and alongside his good friend and teammate—and now colleague—Walla Walla Line Crew Foreman Brian Bishop. Adam also played baseball and wrestled for the Mustangs.
After High School, Adam served his country in the United States Marine Corps for five years before returning to his home state and going to work for Les Schwab Tires in Othello. Not surprisingly, somewhere along the way he reconnected with his old friend, Brian.
“Brian Bishop talked me into going to line school,” Adam recalls. After completing the line worker training program at Northwest Lineman College in Meridian, Idaho in 2009, Adam worked for another year or so working line construction in the Dakotas, mostly building transmission lines and doing some substation work. But then an opportunity closer to home came up.
“I heard that Columbia REA was interviewing for a lineman job,” remembers Adam. “I interviewed for a lineman apprentice position, and I got it. I started as an apprentice in June of 2011, and when my apprenticeship was complete, I became a journeyman lineman. I’ve been with the Dayton crew ever since.”
“I like the job,” says Adam. “The nice part about our job is that you don’t always know what you’re going to be doing all day. You might be working over here and then something else comes along and pulls you off to go work on something somewhere else.”
The primary objective, of course, is to keep the lights on and the power flowing safely.
“It basically comes down to maintenance work. For example, we have been working out just off Sudbury Road. We know that we have that work this week, and part of last week. That’s scheduled maintenance. Then we might get unscheduled maintenance, which would be an outage…a tree branch falls on a line, or a car hits a pole or whatever. So we have to wrap up what we’re doing and go work on that, then we come back to our scheduled work.”
One important event on Adam’s upcoming schedule is a wedding. Adam’s fiance, Emily, is a Medical Laboratory Scientist at Dayton General Hospital. They met shortly after Emily moved from Spokane to Dayton a few years ago.
“We had some mutual friends, but never really connected, but then one day we just kind of ran into each other…that was it. Not a real exciting story,” says Adam, with the world’s greatest poker face.
Outside of work, Adam still likes to hunt and fish. He prefers archery hunting over a rifle or shotgun these days.
“I also like tinkering in my shop,” shares Adam. “I do quite a bit of welding, fabrication…stuff like that. I’m working on a custom flatbed for a truck right now. I just finished building a 36 foot by 60 foot shop for myself. It took me two and a half years. It’s going to be my welding shop.”
As a man of few words, Adam Uptegrove is friendly, respectful, smart, and really does have an interesting story to tell. He just prefers not to go into great detail, and honestly, that is more than a little bit refreshing these days.
As for advice to anyone starting out in the lineman trade, Adam has just one suggestion: start early.
“I was 26 when I started in Line School. That’s pretty old. This job is fairly hard on your body. The younger you are, the better your body can hold up,” Adam points out. With the experience of 11 years in the line trade now, he adds the final punctuation to his point, “The sooner you start, the sooner you can retire.”