For 36 years, Robert Wilson worked as the single troubleman for Ashdown, Ark., earning him the name “The Light Man” by the town’s residents.
“I liked to see the lights come back on,” said Wilson. “That’s the rewarding part of the job – knowing you did something to help somebody.”
Wilson is retiring after more than 48 years with Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), where he started as a part-time janitor in 1970 while still in high school. He worked in Nashville, Mena and Texarkana as a line crew helper and apprentice lineman before moving to Ashdown in 1982.
Wilson said he kept his focus on safety by talking to himself about upcoming jobs prior to working them.
“Whether you’re by yourself or with someone else, you’ve got to discuss the job – about what you’re going to do and what you’ll be seeing,” he said. “I wanted to go home safe every day.”
He added, “If things change, you’ve got to stop what you’re doing, back up, and regroup.”
Distribution System Supervisor Roy Woods, who was Wilson’s supervisor from 2015 until his retirement, said, “Residents would call Robert before calling in an outage ticket,” said Woods. “That’s the kind of relationship he had with Little River County residents. For the past 32 years, he’s taken care of the residents by himself.”
Thirty-plus years of experience in a town yields extensive knowledge of its electrical system. Ashdown Mayor James Sutton said Wilson knows each one of the 450 streetlights in the city – he’s even got them nicknamed.
“He’s been a real asset to Ashdown, and a friend of mine,” said Mayor Sutton. “We’re going to miss him. We really will.”
In addition to his responsibilities as a SWEPCO troubleman for the city of Ashdown, Wilson has volunteered for the Ashdown Fire Department for 35 years and has spent the last 18 years as the Fire Marshal.
“Robert has been at every fire we’ve had here in the past 30 years,” said Sutton.
In his retirement, “The Light Man” plans to continue his hobbies of hunting, fishing, and spending time with his three grandchildren.