Seattle City (spot)Light: Bear Holter

Machinist Crew Chief Bear Holter has worked at City Light for 25 years. Currently, he oversees the hydroelectric maintenance at Boundary Dam. “We handle the mechanical maintenance at the powerhouse,” Bear explained. “Things like turbine overhauls and other mechanical work. We also maintain our mobile equipment and take care of the dam’s spillgates. There’s so much we do—we’re the jack of all trades.”

Born in Metaline Falls, Bear served in the Navy for four years doing welding, construction and working on submarines. His first position at City Light was a machinist specialist at Skagit. When he learned of an opening at Boundary, he applied for the transfer. “I always knew I wanted to get back to Boundary,” he said. “I remember the dam being built. My grandparents took me to it when I was a kid so it means a lot to me.”

Bear lives in Sullivan Lake with his wife, Lynn—their home sits behind the house in which Bear was raised! They’re active members of the community, including their alma mater, Selkirk High School, where Bear does announcing for sporting events. “I’m the voice of the Rangers!” he exclaimed. In this week’s (spot)Light, Bear talks about his career inspiration and life at Boundary.

Bear and Lynn at Frank Slide in British Columbia

“There are six of us on my team. One of the biggest jobs we’ve done was rebuilding a generator. We took the whole thing apart, piece by piece. We got it cleared down to the runner, which is the water wheel or the big thing that spins when the water hits it. When that comes out, we install seal rings to hold it in place. All the bearings get done. The rotor comes out. There are many steps, and, in the end, we put it all back together. It’s a big job that takes about one year to complete. It’s quite a deal.”

“I loved working at Skagit. My daughters grew up there, but I knew the only way I could get back to Boundary was as a machinist. I wanted to be an iron worker for the City, but the only opening at Boundary was taken by my brother, Randy! He was five years ahead of me so I knew I wouldn’t get to Boundary as an ironworker. I took up the machinist trade and went through the apprenticeship. In fact, I was the first City Light apprentice through the machinist program. When I learned of the machinist opening at Boundary, I went for it and, along the way, I became crew chief.”

“I wanted to get in the utility business because my dad was a lifer at Box Canyon Dam which is here locally. He spent 32 years there. It was good to our family so I figured it was a good line of work to get into. You can say he was my early source of inspiration. He also worked ten years here at Boundary.  Randy and I followed in his footsteps. In fact, Randy just celebrated 30 years with City Light.”

“Metaline Falls was a great place to grow up and I’m glad I returned. It has fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation that I enjoy. Up at the dam, we’re a tight-knit group. We work hard together and it’s not uncommon to see each other around town. I just love that small-town feel.”