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Gaetan LaForest celebrates 50 years with J.D. Irving, Limited

Meet Gaetan LaForest, a familiar face in and around our operations in northern New Brunswick. His current title is Senior Advisor, a role in which he is responsible for major projects and supporting our forestry contractors on mechanical issues. Working 50 years with one company is an incredible accomplishment, so we sat down with him and asked a few questions about his time with us.

Gaetan, pictured with his father in 1984. His father operated equipment for the company, and he says he was fortunate to get a job as an operator trainee.

Q. How has your career grown since you started with us 50 years ago?

A. I started out in Deersdale, New Brunswick, as an operator trainee. I spent 17 years in that area, moving from an operator trainee to an operator and on-the-job trainer for Woodlands and Sawmills. I then became a superintendent and was responsible for all operators, road building programs, road maintenance, and trucking. After that, my title changed to process owner, which took me across the Maritimes and Maine to train operators and supervisors, recruit, perform equipment specs for road construction, maintenance, and transportation, and managing major road and culvert projects. I then became a mechanical superintendent for 19 years, first in Maine, and then in northern New Brunswick. In 2019, I accepted my current role.

Q. Are there are major changes you’ve seen throughout your time here?

A. Many things! We moved from harvesting wood with small skidders and manual trail cutters to all mechanical harvesting, and from hauling wood with two axle straight trucks to B trains and off-road trucks. We used to build roads with camp tractors, but now we have large scale road building and maintenance programs. The technology has come a long way over the years, and several of our small mills have upgraded to state-of-the-art sawmills.

Pictured here is Gaetan with a dozer in 1976. His coworkers have always described him as “a self-taught engineer”.

Q. If you could pick the best part about your time with us, what would it be?

A. Being able to look back at all of my accomplishments and be proud of it.

Q. Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into your field of work?

A. If you love a challenge and like to try new things, develop new ideas, and be paid well for your hard work, JDI is the ideal place.

Gaetan LaForest in 2022. Some of his accomplishments include developing the first lightweight truck and trailer configurations, creating new techniques in road maintenance and culvert installation, and working on numerous projects such as the Bouctouche marina, the Rexton mill site, and the Irving Nature Park.

Congratulations on 50 years with JDI!