Rickey Reed’s co-workers and friends agree that he has that “special something” that sets him apart from the crowd, whether he’s negotiating land deals for Alabama Power or fiddling onstage with a country music band.
“Rickey has got a big personality and gets along with everybody,” said Jeff Callicott, Alabama Power team leader, Land Acquisition-Birmingham. “You can tell when he walks into a room. He’s very confident, and people are drawn to him.”
On Dec. 18, Reed, Land Acquisition coordinator, celebrated his 50-year milestone at Alabama Power.
“Rickey was my mentor and helped me grow when I took that first position in Land Acquisition,” Callicott remembered. “He taught me the dos and don’ts of negotiating and relating to customers, and was always there to answer any questions.”
After graduating from Winfield High School in 1971 and spending four semesters at Walker College, Reed realized that he was in the wrong place and was soon recommended for a job at Alabama Power by his cousin’s husband, who was a crew foreman.
Rickey Reed climbs a power pole in the 1970s. (contributed)
“At that point in time, you went to work at the power company on the recommendation of people who knew you and knew you would work,” Reed said.
Reed joined Alabama Power in December 1972, digging ditches for seven months as a laborer in a Tuscaloosa substation crew. He took a job on a tree crew and then as a meter reader before becoming an apprentice lineman in Haleyville. Reed finally returned home to Winfield, where he began moving up the ranks on the line crew.
“Some of my first memories were of getting up in the morning and seeing my dad sitting in a living room chair to strap on his boots to go to work on the crew,” said Reed’s son, Patrick. “Growing up, I knew that anytime the lights went out, he was going to be working on getting them back on.”
Patrick, a real estate specialist in Alabama Power Land Acquisition-South, said he has always been proud to say that his dad works for the company, which led him to choose a similar path when the opportunity came his way.
“I have always been a child of the company,” Patrick said. “Because we lived in a small town, folks would call our house when their lights went out. If my dad wasn’t at home, I would often give them information about the outage based on what I heard him repeat to other people on the phone.”
Retired Alabama Power Crew Foreman Wayne “Rebel” Silas said Reed was “an efficient worker who knew how to do everything.” Along with working on the crew together, the two are longtime buddies and were neighbors in Winfield for many years.
“I remember when he left for Land Acquisition, our foreman said, ‘We lost Rickey. What are we going to do?’” Silas said.
Working the land
In 1987, Reed moved to Corporate Real Estate (CRE), where he worked for the next 20 years as a distribution right-of-way agent in Land Acquisition.
“When I arrived, there was a building boom going on in what was then the Northwest District,” Reed said. “They released the two contractors who were working that territory, and I ended up with all six counties. But I never looked back, and I never regretted the move.”
As a Land Acquisition coordinator for transmission since 2007, Reed said he has traveled thousands of miles and worked in all six divisions at one time or another.
Reed with his fellow Winfield linemen early in his career. (contributed)
Today, Reed oversees CRE projects in Birmingham, Western and Eastern divisions, which can include negotiating the purchase of transmission rights of way and leases on sites where company facilities will be built. He manages project budgets and work schedules, and makes sure each job is completed on time.
“There’s real satisfaction in finishing a job and seeing the completed project, whether it’s a new substation or a transmission line,” Reed said.
One of his proudest moments at Alabama Power, Reed said, was receiving the Presidential Award of Honor in 1987, along with five co-workers, for helping save the life of another employee. Reed and the crew members took turns administering CPR when one of their co-workers suffered a heart attack at a company Christmas party.
Reed has been active in the community, serving on the Winfield Chamber of Commerce board for 20 years, including as president in 2000. For 44 years, he played a lead role in organizing the Winfield chamber’s annual Mule Day Festival, which celebrates the area’s heritage and the working mule. It draws more than 30,000 people from across the Southeast to Winfield each September, Reed said.
Before handing the reins to others two years ago, Reed said he scheduled the musical entertainment for the two-day festival, arranged for electrical hook-ups for vendor booths and rode the mile-long parade route to help keep the mules and other animals in line.
Along with his community efforts, Reed returned to college in 1993 and received a degree in human resource management at Faulkner University.
Reed was an Alabama Power “Lifeliner” for 34 years, presenting the company’s Safe-T-Opolis program. Although the electrical safety program targets fourth grade classes, Reed said he was often asked to present the program to high school juniors and seniors.
“After I finished the presentation, I always took time to talk about the need for workers with technical skills, and the fact that although all parents want their child to go to college, there are some who aren’t cut out for it,” Reed said. “But there is a need right now for plumbers, electricians, people in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and even linemen. Students can finish a technical program at a junior college in two years, while four-year college students are still accumulating student debt. I am aware of several in Winfield who have gone that route, and that gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
Rickey Reed plays fiddle during a Rock the South festival. (contributed)
Reed’s prized white fiddle is autographed by music greats. (Phil Free / Alabama News Center)
Rickey Reed makes the paper in 2013 for his side gig as a country musician. (Phil Free / Alabama News Center)
Until recently, playing the fiddle in country music bands on the weekends was a way of life for Reed, who has performed in clubs all over the Southeast, most notably Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville. He has played shows with country greats like Charlie Daniels, Toby Keith, Tammy Wynette and Collin Raye. One of his prized possessions is a white fiddle that bears the signatures of the stars he has played with along the way.
A latecomer to music, Reed said he was 28 years old when he began teaching himself to play the fiddle, at the urging of a friend who performed in a bluegrass band at the time.
“I ended up with a fiddle that I bought at a yard sale for $5. It laid around in the basement for two years before I ever picked it up,” Reed said. “I started learning in the basement, and I knew the night my wife, Candy, let me come upstairs to play that I was getting better. As time went on, I began sitting in with my friend’s band, and the rest is history.”
Reed said Patrick, his other son, Allen, and daughter, Kristin Mathis, share his passion for music. He has even joined them onstage in their own shows.
These days, Reed plays his fiddle at church or an occasional wedding.
“After 35 years in the music business, I woke up one morning and said to myself, ‘This ain’t fun anymore,’ so I hung it up,” he said.
Rickey Reed leans on one of his woodworking machines in his shop. (Phil Free / Alabama News Center)
Reed, 69, said he plans to work a while longer before retiring. He looks forward to spending time with his five grandchildren. In preparation for moving on from Alabama Power, he has spent the past two years building a 7,000-square-foot workshop on his 25-acre property in Winfield. There, he plans to continue pursuing his woodworking and metalworking hobbies.
“When I was a kid, the other kids were getting four-wheelers and go-carts, while I was getting tools,” Reed said. “I got a power saw for Christmas when I was 12, and it has grown from there.”
Mike Bunn, supervisor, Land Acquisition-North, said Reed will be missed when he decides to retire.
“Rickey’s experience in acquiring land rights for Alabama Power runs deep,” Bunn said. “He is well-respected and readily shares his knowledge with other members of our team, and the external network he has developed over many years has been key to difficult negotiations. We are all honored by his long dedication and service to Alabama Power.”
Reed said he has “never had any desire to work anywhere but Alabama Power.”
“I have been provided opportunities to progress because I always try to give 110%,” he said. “The company has raised and educated my three kids and continues to provide a good living for me and my wife.”
This story originally appeared in Powergrams, the magazine for Alabama Power employees.