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All in the Family

Tuesday, January 30, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Shari Wormwood
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Four Huots, four different co-ops in Minnkota system
This story was written and shared with MREA by Ben Fladhammer, Corporate Communications Coordinator, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc.

 

In the middle of the night when storms rage through northwest Minnesota, Leslie Huot can’t help but worry. Her three sons – Travis, Jesse and Adam – are electric cooperative line workers in the region. If the lights go out, working day and night in treacherous conditions is just part of the job.

“I’m very proud as a parent to have linemen,” Leslie said. “It’s a dangerous profession, but it’s a good profession.” Leslie knows firsthand the importance of what her sons do for a living. She’s worked the phone lines at Beltrami Electric Cooperative in Bemidji, Minn., for the last 17 years. Having line workers as sons helps her answer questions and relay information out to the membership.


“I feel I have a better understanding of the linemen I work with,” Leslie said. “When they get called out on storm jobs, I know what they’re going to be doing, because my boys do the same thing.”


While it is rare to have four immediate family members working for electric cooperatives, it is even more rare that each works for a cooperative in the Minnkota system. Travis is the line foreman at Clearwater-Polk Electric Cooperative in Bagley, Minn.; Jesse is a journeyman lineman at North Star Electric Cooperative in Baudette, Minn.; and Adam is an apprentice lineman based out of Red River Valley Cooperative Power Association’s outpost office in Moorhead, Minn.


The Huots were initially drawn to cooperatives because of the rural setting and their reputation of having a family atmosphere. They haven’t been disappointed.

“When I got hired, the one thing that was said to me was, ‘You don’t quit Beltrami Electric; you retire from Beltrami Electric,’” Leslie said. “That’s just the kind of company it is. And I think our sons’ co-ops are the same way.”


Growing up

Leslie and her husband, Mark, say there were no clear-cut signs that they were raising three future line workers. But when the family moved to Bemidji from western North Dakota in 1994, the tall trees in the area provided a perfect training ground for pole climbing. In fact, on their first day in town, Jesse climbed so high he needed a ladder to get down.


“They were always climbing trees,” Leslie said. “They couldn’t stand to stay inside. So we knew they probably weren’t going to like sitting in an office someday.”

Even electrician work included too much time inside for Jesse, 30, who was the first in the family to enter the line trade. After sharing stories of a typical day on the job, his brothers followed the same career path. As much as Jesse enjoys the fresh air and open spaces, the camaraderie on his crew may be his favorite part.


“You pretty much live with each other,” Jesse said. “A lot of other jobs, people come and go. When you get into a cooperative, people don’t leave too often.”

With a younger line crew at North Star Electric, he believes there is chance for his guys to be together for many years to come. Working on power lines in remote areas means everyone has to trust each other, he said.


“A guy might get ticked off here or there, but at the end of the day you gotta be buddies,” Jesse said. Camaraderie is something Adam, 21, noticed right away, too. He’s had six months on the job at his co-op and is starting to become comfortable with the processes and systems. “I really like it so far,” Adam said. “The guys are really good to me. They take the time to teach me their way of doing things.”


Adrenaline rush

From one brother to the next, the Huots admit they are drawn to the adrenaline rush of line work and the satisfaction of doing something that makes a difference in people’s lives. One of the career highlights for the brothers is working together on a storm project near Bagley. Each of the Minnkota cooperatives routinely reach out to help each other when Mother Nature strikes.


“We’ll have outages when we’re working nonstop for days on end,” said Travis, 31. “When you turn the power back on and they’re appreciative, it makes a guy feel pretty good.” Travis chased that feeling all the way to New York, where in 2012 he helped restore power after Hurricane Sandy. But with three young children at home, he’s happy sticking close to the area. He says the kids are getting used to the 24-hour demands of the job. “If it’s suppertime and I gotta go to work, my kids will say, ‘Daddy, you gotta go fix power?’ I say, ‘Yeah, daddy has to go fix power.’”


If the crews are in a safe area close to home, his wife, Kate, will drive near the job site so his 4-year-old daughter, Peyton, and 3-year-old son, Judson, can watch their dad work. “There’s probably going to be another lineman in the family,” Leslie said with a smile.

 


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