Ed Buma knew he didn’t want to have a desk job. He didn’t get one. As a journeyman lineman/serviceman he is always outside and many times has left home in the middle of the night to go out in freezing rain or snow. “My job has been very rewarding to me,” the easygoing Camas resident says. “You just have to put on your gear and suck it up, because you are out there until you get the lights back on.”
Name: Ed Buma.
Job/employer: Journeyman lineman for Clark Public Utilities.
How did you get into this line of work: I was 19 when I applied for a job at Clark Public Utilities. I knew I didn’t want a desk job. I wanted a job that I could be outside all the time. I started working at the utility in 1978 as a groundsman, which means I stayed on the ground and assisted the person up in the air via a handline. I did that for about nine years before I had enough seniority to bid on the journeyman lineman apprenticeship. I was ready to go up in the air, and I liked it a lot.
I am one of the 10 single-person crews here at the utility, a first responder. I take my truck home, so when I get a call, sometimes in the middle of the night, I am ready to go to work immediately. After I assess the trouble spot, I either fix the problem myself or call for more help. When we get calls at night, we usually have two people so one person can drive and the other person can spotlight the problem. We might need a larger crew if we have to dig up a yard or replace a pole. We also shut off power before firemen go in a building or shut off power so people can get out of a car if there are lines on the vehicle.
There is always maintenance work to do, either on wires or rebuilding circuits throughout the system of Clark PUD. A storm changes everything. Then everyone works to restore power after a storm. Sometimes we have to return to the same area 15 minutes after fixing the problem because another tree went down.
Most rewarding part of job: Having the phone quiet. When the phone is not ringing, you know you have done your job and customers are satisfied.
Most challenging part of job: The storm work is definitely the most challenging. There are many scenarios of why the power is out. It is my job to figure out the quickest solution to fixing the problem.
Personal/business philosophy: Getting the job done.
Something you would like to do over: I am pretty satisfied about how things worked out. My job has been very rewarding to me.
Best feature of my Vancouver/Clark County community: I love that Camas is a close-knit community. The people are so friendly and everybody is nice. I very rarely run into a rude person in the Camas area.
Favorite restaurants: Black Angus Steakhouse in downtown Vancouver and Sayler’s Old Country Kitchen in Portland.
Hobbies: Boating and camping.
Favorite travel destination: We usually stay pretty local with our camping trailer. I have enjoyed Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and Disneyland.
Most interesting book in last 12 months: I usually read newspapers and short stories.
Most interesting play/movie/arts event: I am not to up-to-date on the latest movies because we watch most movies at home.
One thing you want to do this year: I am in the process of finishing a remodeling project at our other property.
Something you want to do within five years: Retire.
One word to describe yourself: Easygoing.
Person you’d most like to meet: Richard Rawlings of the television show “Fast N’ Loud.”
Cold on the job: You do get cold and wet. You just have to put on your gear and suck it up because you are out there until you get the lights back on. Some of our people have pretty much worked continually for three days and nights, before taking a break, to restore power.
Lights out: Several years ago, we got a call that the lights were out in downtown Vancouver. We saw something rather large lying in the middle of the street. Turned out it was a bald eagle, which apparently touched the wrong wires. It was most unusual because bald eagles are usually not that dumb.