By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
A specialty license plate honoring power line workers and raising funds to help the families of those injured on the job is now available in every probate office in Alabama.
The “Thank a Lineman” specialty plate was introduced in 2019 and is now available to drivers statewide. The Energy Institute of Alabama, who advocated for the plate, established a foundation to raise money to support the families of those who are injured or killed doing the dangerous job of maintaining power lines.
The group recently made a contribution to the family of Boyd Hodge, a lineman for the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative who was killed during a work accident in August. A national foundation matched the Energy Institute’s contribution.
Seth Hammett, who serves as chairman of the Energy Institute of Alabama, said it is important to support those who are impacted by on-the-job accidents.
“Alabama’s electrical linemen put their lives at risk every day to ensure our homes and businesses have the electricity we count on,” Hammett said. “They are also often the first responders when natural disasters strike. The Energy Institute established this program to be there in a time of need and to show support to the families of these brave men and women.”
The fee for specialty plates is an additional $50.
The Energy Institute of Alabama is a trade association comprised of all of the state electricity providers, including Alabama Power, the Tennessee Valley Authority, PowerSouth, Electric Cities, the Alabama Rural Electric Association and Alabama Municipal Electric Authority. Hammett said setting up a foundation to support workers fits into the core missions of the group’s members.
“We talk a lot about taking care of the people who keep the lights on,” he said. “Of course, there are many who do that from the generation plants to the lines, but the face of our industry is the lineman.”
Hammett said the contribution to Hodge’s family is the first the foundation has made.
“We’re glad to have the opportunity to help the family, but we hope to never have to use it for that particular purpose again,” Hammett said. “It’s like buying insurance that you hope you never have to use.”
Blake Hardwich, executive director of the institute, said uses for the foundation’s funds won’t be limited to personal contributions.
“We didn’t want to single out one entity,” Hardwich said. “We wanted to use it for good purposes, whether it’s helping a lineman who has been injured on the job, or God forbid, being able to help a family of someone lost on the job as in the recent tragic situation, or even supporting things like the burn units at the University of Alabama Birmingham and the University of South Alabama.
“Now that we have established the foundation and have the tag, all the proceeds can go toward supporting utility workers.”
According to Hammett and Hardwich, the idea for the “Thank a Lineman” tag originated from workers themselves.
“It was a grassroots approach coming from not just linemen, but all utility workers,” Hardwich said. “Whether you’re in the power house or driving a truck or what have you, they have been expressing an interest in having a vanity tag and ways to use any funds we raised.
“For the past four years now we have been putting on a ‘Thank a Lineman Day’ so it’s really us taking the next step in giving back to the community of utility workers.”