Meet Mike Metcalf, IMU’s Electric Superintendent

If you’re involved in FFA or 4H, you might know Mike Metcalf and his family. Mike sits on the local FFA advisory committee and co-leads the 4H club, and the entire Metcalf crew travel the nation showing cattle. “I definitely cherish the time I get to spend with my kids,” says Mike. “They love a lot of the same things my wife and I do.” He makes time as well to volunteer for several professional organizations focused on electrical safety. The man loves electricity.

A family tradition

It started in 1987, when 12-year-old Mike got the call from his uncles, who co-owned Harvey Electric in Pleasantville. They needed a helper, and he was just the boy for the job. His grandfather was a lineman, “so it was a family thing,” says Mike. “It’s what we talked about.” By graduation, he knew he wanted to be a lineman for life, so he enrolled at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon to study in one of the best programs in the state.

“There were no bucket trucks,” recalls Mike, describing his college experience. “We climbed poles.” He learned quickly that Northwest Iowa can be a very cold place, so it’s no surprise he passed up the “opportunity” to go to Alaska with some classmates to be a lineman there. That was the only offer on the table, though, so after graduation he traveled the state and hand-delivered resumes to communities with their own utilities. Anita answered, and Mike stayed for over two years, beginning his formal apprenticeship.

There’s no place like home

Mike liked his job, but he missed home and family. When he heard through the grapevine IMU needed an apprentice he applied. After he finished his apprenticeship, he was Indianola’s first certified journeyman lineman. He then became a crew chief. “That was a tough one,” Mike says. “I was one of the younger guys around here, but the older guys told me to go for it.”

In 2005, Mike applied for a management position at IMU. He was responsible for utility safety and IMU’s electric system design. Mike also assisted with the fiber expansion. 

Lighting up the fiber network for the first time was another learning experience. “Very early on, we started a cutover early in the day when the sun was coming up. Then we watched the sun go down, then rise again. It doesn’t take that long anymore.” Mike laughs.

Long hours do come with the job, though. Mike tells the story of a huge “wind event” that rocked Indianola three years ago. “We lost about 70 percent of the town’s power. My guys worked so hard, and it was so hot. People were bringing them stuff to drink, food, everything.” They worked around the clock for over 36 hours. “I gave them turns going home for a few hours of sleep. It took a day and a half and a couple of mutual aid crews, but we got it all done.”

Following the retirement of long-time electric superintendent Bob Miller, Mike was promoted to his current position of electric superintendent in 2017.  Mike has been a great leader in the electric department, and his experience in working his way up through the electric ranks has helped him mentor his staff.

The trades offer great opportunities

Mike encourages young people to consider the trades as a career path. “We need people coming into the industry as apprentices. There’s a big lack of people with exposure to trades-type knowledge, I think because there are barely any small farms anymore where kids can be exposed to that kind of learning.” Apprenticeship covers that gap, and IMU is one place to consider. Mike may have been the first certified journeyman, but now there are a total of 10 lineman, including 5 apprentices.

Mike is loyal to IMU and its hometown values. “I had the opportunity to go to Mid-America early on, but my grandpa told me to stay with IMU. He said, ‘they’re good people and you won’t just be a number.’ He was right.”