The bucket truck pulls slowly into downtown Fenwick. A quick glimpse is all it takes to survey the town’s condition after another vicious storm hit. 

The sole traffic light is out, the post office is empty, and nearby businesses and schools sit in dark silence. And the community of 2,000 people anxiously wait for their power to be restored, with generators humming and candles burning. 

For our crew, it resembles any small town in Michigan they have served or visited.  

But for Sam Rockafellow, a lineworker riding along in the bucket truck, it isn’t like any other town – it’s home.  

Memories flood back to him every time he returns to his old stomping grounds. There’s the old football field where he played for 11 years. He sees himself riding down the road on his bicycle. And he’s on the swing set at the playground at his elementary school. 

“It’s surreal whenever I go back to Fenwick,” said Rockafellow. “We know how important keeping the power on is to everyone. And it definitely puts more of a personal touch on a trip for me to restore power to my hometown. I’ll never forget where I came from.” 

Becoming a Lineworker 

Rockafellow’s path to becoming a lineworker wasn’t a clear-cut one. It often isn’t for lineworkers. He didn’t dream of climbing poles as a little kid. In fact, he really didn’t know what the job was all about, and he doesn’t remember seeing a bucket truck before he rode in one. 

It was 2013 and Rockafellow was at a crossroads in life. He went to college, but decided it wasn’t for him. He had eight W-2 forms that year. He did odd jobs including delivering pizzas, working in a lumber yard and sweeping up after chickens at a factory. 

“Not very glamorous jobs at all,” he said with a laugh. “And on top of that I was in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. It’s not easy for any reservist, no matter what branch, to juggle a full-time job, family and commitment to your military service,” he said. “Fortunately, Consumers Energy has a great community for military members, both active and veterans. In my small headquarters alone, we have five guys that were in the Marines.” 

Rockafellow felt something was missing in his life. 

“Even though I was trying different things, to be honest I was very lost,” he said. “I was just floating about in life.” 

He added one more job to the list, when he became a tree trimmer with a contactor and that’s where his sliding doors moment happened. A friend’s mom, who worked for Consumers Energy, encouraged him to apply for a lineworker position. 

“I didn’t think of doing something like that in a million years, it just wasn’t an option,” he said. “I owe her to this day for that one.” 

Making a Message Reality 

He took her message to heart and went to work doing some research about the job.

“I remember telling my dad that I wanted to be a lineworker and he sarcastically responded, ‘yeah sure, OK.’”  But Rockafellow wasn’t deterred, “I felt I had a purpose like never before. I was all in.” 

He applied for the Consumers Energy’s Apprenticeship Training program. There he would spend hundreds of hours of intense but fulfilling training at Lansing Community College (LCC) and the Marshall Training Center. 

“One of the best decisions I have ever made in my life,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I wasn’t a lineworker. It really is an honor and a blessing.” 

Early on in his career as a lineworker, Rockafellow decided to leave the Marines. 

“It was a tough decision, but I decided I wanted to concentrate on being the best lineworker I could be.” 

Now, about a decade later and after getting married and having a baby, he still relishes running toward the new challenges of being a lineworker. 

“You never know what you’re going to run into each day,” he said. 

“I never thought I would get that feeling of camaraderie again that I did on the football field or as a member of the Marines,” he added. “I was dead wrong, and I am glad I was. I get that same feeling every single day I show up to work as a lineworker. It’s just an awesome, indescribable feeling.” 

National Lineworker Appreciation Day is celebrated on April 18. We appreciate Rockafellow’s and all our lineworkers’ dedication to our customers and delivering on our Reliability Roadmap goals 

Meet more of our employees:

Honored to Serve as a Lineworker

When Reliable Service Requires more than a Bucket Truck

Grid Modernization Team Key to Reliable Energy Future