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The ELM Elite winner for January is Nicholas McCluen

In 2017, Nicholas McCluen from Phoenix, AZ was working at a fast-food restaurant and wanted to find something new. His brother-in-law was a locating technician for ELM and told him he should apply. Nicholas had no prior construction or utility related experience, but he thought the job had greater career potential than what he was currently doing and at the very least the take home company vehicle would help him save gas money, so he gave it a shot. Now, six years later, Nicholas has been named the ELM Elite winner for January 2023. Congratulations on your achievement Nicholas!

Nicholas currently locates gas and fiber optic lines. He is also fully trained to locate electric lines; he just doesn’t have any in his area right now. Looking back at the beginning of his career, Nicholas thinks he adapted to the job easily and credits his first supervisor and brother-in-law for helping him and answering questions whenever he had them. He does, however, recall that it took him a few months for the importance of the job to fully sink in. When asked what advice he would give a younger version of himself he said, “Take it very seriously. My first few months, I was just a young, dumb kid. I screwed around a lot. It wasn’t until I had an audit with one of the Southwest Gas guys…he helped me realize this job is serious and if we miss a gas line somebody can get killed.”

Another thing Nicholas takes seriously is driver safety. With the warmer year-round weather in Arizona, Nicholas knows there could be motorcyclists on the road at any time. A motorcycle’s smaller size makes it easier for them to disappear in his blind spot, so he always does a full shoulder check before changing lanes. Making sure your lane is fully clear and always signaling your intent to change lanes are easy ways to prevent collisions with both motorcycles and automobiles.

Nicholas believes working around traffic and roadways is one of the most difficult parts of his job, noting “Sometimes it’s a very busy road and you have to get tricky with it.” First, he takes the necessary safety precautions like making himself and his vehicle as visible as possible by wearing his high visibility vest and parking strategically with his hazard and beacon lights on. Then Nicholas assesses the risks of the area and studies his utility maps to minimize the amount of time he spends in the roadway. By being patient, always facing oncoming traffic, never assuming a motorist will stop for him, and utilizing traffic signals to his advantage he is able to work safely on a day-to-day basis. For exceptionally busy roadways Nicholas will take the safest course of action and make approved arrangements and plan his work to take place at a time of day when traffic is lighter.

In his free time, Nicholas enjoys spending time with his girlfriend as well as camping and participating in archery tournaments with his family. His parents, sister, and uncle have all been attending archery tournaments together for many years now.