NPL’s Longest Working Employee, Jeff Solberg

In the same year that NPL turns 50, Jeff Solberg will roll over 40 years of service. He is the longest-working employee at NPL. Living just eight miles from NPL’s birthplace in Minnesota, Jeff exemplifies what’s best about NPL.

Fresh out of high school in 1977, Jeff started with NPL as a laborer following work throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa. In NPL fashion, Jeff’s hard work led to opportunities for advancement. He spent three years as a fuser. After that, he became a foreman of a service replacement crew. Today, Jeff is the foreman of a four-person crew working on regulator stations.

According to Jeff, his 40 years have “gone by in a flash.” He attributes this to the day-to-day variety of his job. From replacement services to new services construction or regulator station rebuilds, Jeff’s favorite part of the job is how it’s always changing. The way NPL treats its employees and fosters teamwork has also made it easy for Jeff to stick around. “I’ve been treated well here—respected,” he says. “NPL will work with people. They really want to teach and train you.” In fact, Jeff sees his role of foreman as that of a trainer and mentor. Throughout his career, he estimates “training up” nearly 50 people on his crews to move on to new NPL opportunities.

Jeff identifies strongly with NPL’s core value to NEVER QUIT. It hasn’t always been easy, though. Jeff remembers the challenge of being a relatively new foreman in 1984 when NPL agreed to do thousands of replacement services for Minnegasco in one year. Today, the work that Jeff and his crew do on pressure regulators and odorizers at border stations require them to temporarily shut off gas to a lot of people. Though the task is different, the urgency to finish a job that many people are counting on is the same. “When you turn that valve, you have to do what it takes to get the gas turned back on,” he says. “Quitting lets down your customer, your employer and a lot of people.”

(Top photo) In 1994, Jeff was part of Minnesota’s first two crews assigned to joint trench work, which was relatively new at the time. This particular job was in Lino Lakes, Minnesota. In those days, joint trench simply meant the installation of electric, telephone, TV and gas main all in the same trench. This is how the process was described: The electric and TV, with telephone between, are installed first on the bottom of a 4-1/2′ deep, 3′ wide trench. Those services are then covered with one foot of dirt that is tamped with a sheepsfoot tamper. Then, a ribbon is placed on the dirt above the wires to indicate their whereabouts below. More dirt is added and tamped on top of the ribbon. Next, the gas pipe is installed, plus another foot of dirt. Another ribbon is placed to mark the gas pipe, and then a final layer of dirt.

(Below) Jeff Solberg, second from left, is pictured during NPL’s 23rd Annual Fishing Tournament in 2000.