After following in his father’s shoes as an electrician, he joined Newton County REMC. He became a lineman, all right — the kind who works on power lines on the electric grid, not defending or sacking quarterbacks on the gridiron.
Twenty-three years later, Sheets still gets down in the trenches and up on the poles doing linework with the crew, but as Newton’s line superintendent, he’s now also drawing up the Xs and Os. He designs and calls the plays, as it were, staking and building the co-op’s electrical system and keeping it running.
Growing up in Goodland, Sheets began helping his dad on job sites, pulling wires, and hooking up wires when he was in his teens. After getting a degree in sociology while playing football, he returned to Goodland, unsure of what he wanted to do. He worked with his dad. Then, in 2000, Sheets found an REMC job application underneath his car’s windshield wiper. From working at construction sites, he got to know some of the co-op employees. He also knew its general manager at the time from playing in various sports leagues in the area.
The manager was persistent in his recruiting and called him and asked when he could come in for an interview. They set up a time. On the day of the interview, he was at a muddy job site with his dad’s crew and had to stay late to help them get out of the mud. “So, I showed up in work clothes, probably an hour or so late, and didn’t have the application filled out. We filled out the application while we were sitting there talking. He pretty much said, ‘Well, when can you start?’”
As a certified electrician, Sheets hit the ground running, doing what he already knew how to do, and he began the four-year apprentice lineman training.
“It was definitely challenging,” he said, “because, at that time, Newton County REMC had never had an apprentice go through the entire apprenticeship program. I was the first. I didn’t know what to expect because nobody here had done it.”
At the time, the REMC had only three linemen. Today, the co-op still has just three linemen, but it also has three apprentices, who will be doubling the crew in the coming years.
Having a small team keeps the job interesting with unique challenges. “Every day is something different,” Sheets said. “We’re learning every day, including me, and I’ve been here a long time.”
Sheets is proud and glad he came home. “It’s a great career. I have a second-to-none retirement program, and it’s just been nice. I know probably 90% of our customers and 90% of the people around this area. They watched me play football and grow up. And I’ve known them my entire life, lots of good friends and good customers. We have been around each other our whole lives.”