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Lineman dims the lights on a long career

After 47 years as a lineman, Dick Scoville (right) is a source of knowledge for many of his coworkers. On Monday, he was stringing line on a wooden pole with his fellow lineman Chase Peterson. LaReesa Sandretsky.1 / 3
Scoville works on preparing a pole to go into the ground on Monday. He will retire in April. Photo by LaReesa Sandretsky.2 / 3
Scoville was part of this crew that replaced a pole on Highway 2 and Airport Road in 2012 as part of the fiber optic project. Submitted photo by CLP.3 / 3

After 47 years on power lines, Dick Scoville is finally retiring. Scoville, 68, got his job at Cooperative Light and Power nearly five decades ago. He was living in Fargo, N.D., when his close friend Tom Dahlstrom applied for a job as a lineman at the Two Harbors electric company. He was asked to visit for an interview and Dahlstrom asked Scoville to keep him company on the five-hour drive across Minnesota. He agreed.

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The two set out for the North Shore, and when they arrived at CLP, a second man scheduled for an interview hadn’t shown up. The CLP manager asked Scoville if he wanted to interview for the position. He did, and the two friends both got jobs.

“I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said. “You’d think a guy would get tired of that after 45 years.”

He says he not only hasn’t grown tired, but he still loves his job. Dahlstrom retired in 2007, but Scoville continued on before deciding to retire this year.

“I’m a procrastinator,” he said.

Scoville plans to move to Peoria, Ill., to be with his wife when he finishes up this April. It will mark the first real separation from Dahlstrom after a lifetime of living within a stone’s throw of each other.

The two grew up in Grandin, N.D., where they were the only two kids in their grade in a one-room school house. They graduated high school together, attended Wahpeton State School of Science together and were enlisted in the same National Guard unit. They both started their careers at Henning Construction in Fargo before moving to Two Harbors.

“We were in a country school and we’ve been together since then,” Scoville said.

Their Two Harbors homes are just blocks apart, though Scoville just finalized the sale of his. He said he made the official announcement of his retirement after he sold his house.

“I did have a hard time telling the guys,” he said of breaking the news to his coworkers. “I had to walk out of the room.”

Scoville, a quick talker with an extraordinary ability to remember numbers, maintains a constant banter with his coworkers, but the wisecracks camouflage a deep respect. He said the other linemen start each morning by picking on him, but it’s clear that they value his experience.

He has helped train all eight of the linemen on staff, including his boss, line superintendent Larry Sandretsky.

“His attitude and his charisma will be sadly missed,” Sandretsky said. “He treats everybody with respect. You can’t find someone to say a bad word about him.”

He’s the oldest man on the crew, but it isn’t obvious on the job site. On Monday, Scoville was bundled up against the 13-degree weather and stringing a wooden pole with wire, working at the same pace as coworkers one-third his age. Sandretsky said sometimes Scoville will climb a pole just to prove he can still do it.

He likes his job, but he said leaving behind electricity poles and cables won’t be the hard part about retirement. When asked what he will miss most about his job, the answer isn’t the work. It’s “the guys.”

“We’re all nuts,” he said.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
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