After 41 years as a lineman for the Sleepy Eye Electric Department, Al Fischer will punch in officially for the last time on March 29.
That day holds significance for more than one reason. On that day Al will also turn 62 years old.
"It's been a good job, but after 41 years, it's time to do something else," Al said.
Al started in the position in the winter of 1971, when he'd been laid off as as an electrician in St. James. He explained that Bob Bertrand called and asked him to consider being a lineman for the city of Sleepy Eye.
Al said he told Bob he didn't know the first thing about being a lineman and Bob told him to come and see what it was about. Al replaced Vince Mathiowetz who was leaving to pursue his own auto repair business.
One thing that Al really appreciates about the job is working with other linemen around the area in a cooperative network.
He said the tornado that tore through more than three counties in 1998, showed how valuable a cooperative can be. During that time Al was one of the many linemen that helped restore power to St. Peter after the storm.
"You get to know all the guys in the industry, especially coming from a small town," Al said.
He said that tornado ripped through parts of Minnesota on his birthday, March 29. He recalls the air being very heavy that day. His family had just finished his birthday meal and were enjoying desert when the call came in requesting mutual aid in St. Peter. Al said he helped restore power in St. Peter through Easter.
He was struck by the amount of devastation and the other linemen whose homes had been destroyed, were still working to help get power on for other people.
Throughout Al's 41 year tenure, he said many things have changed, including technological upgrades that allowed for more underground power lines, computer monitors that now check load measurements, two different substations since he's been in his position and the advent of cell phones.
"When cell phones were introduced we thought we were in heaven," Al said. "Now when we were on-call for a weekend we could actually leave the house. Of course before that we had beepers and we really thought that was something too."
Being in the electrical business, Al said it was not uncommon to be awakened in the middle of the night to restore power.
But after 33 years in the National Guard, Al said it wasn't hard for him to wake up from a deep sleep and already be thinking about how the problem could be fixed as he's driving into work to get his equipment.
Page 2 of 2 - "People have always been very grateful," Al said of getting the power back on. "I've received ice cream treats on hot summer days before the work is even finished and thank you notes. There is satisfaction in getting the power back on."
He said he will not be lacking for things to do after retirement.
Al and his wife, Carol, will be traveling to Germany in late spring. He owns lake property in Spicer and he has eight grandchildren between the ages of seven months to 17-years-old who want some of grandpa's attention and grandpa is ready to give it to them, Al said.
There are also several hobbies he is looking forward to embarking on. One in particular is having a garden again.
"I will have plenty to do in retirement," Al added.
One thing Al said will not change is having coffee with his usual group at City Limits each morning. The only difference is when they leave to go to work, he will go home and begin his projects.