NPL’s First Employee

Dick Maple became NPL’s first employee in 1967 when the company was known as Northern Gas Line Constructors and operating out of Gonvick, Minnesota.

A native of Clearbrook in northern Minnesota (right next door to Gonvick), Dick’s pipeline career began with Sheehan Pipeline where he worked on a pipe bending crew. After that, he surveyed right-of-way for Clausen Engineering and worked as a welder helper for Panama Pipeline.

Dick joined NPL as a laborer/welder helper. Over the years, he advanced from that original role to foreman, superintendent and then finally to vice president before retiring in 1996. Even in retirement, Dick kept in touch with NPL as a consultant. Having witnessed NPL’s incredible growth from a three-man crew installing farm taps to becoming the largest gas distribution contractor in the United States, Dick identified the “longevity with a great company” and “the people” as highlights of his long career.

One of Dick’s favorite stories from NPL’s early days is when he and founder Noel Coon were hauling a trenching machine from a finished job in Cloquet to a new job 60 miles away in Silver Bay, Minnesota. NPL’s second employee, who had just been hired, was driving separately in a dump truck. Wanting to beat the “new guy” to the job site in Silver Bay, Noel and Dick took a short cut. They ended up getting lost on a gravel road and then running into a ditch. The event shut the entire company down for the day (considering that the company was only made up of three people at the time).

Aside from his role in NPL history, Dick also served as the mayor of Gonvick, NPL’s hometown. Rumor has it, that after refusing to run for office, Dick won as a write-in candidate. He was the only write-in candidate in history to win an election and still demand a recount.