Greg Dapper—Cedar Lake Electric, Faribault
By Misty Schwab, Faribault Daily News
“He’s the first one to get here and the last one to leave.” That is how Cedar Lake Electric founder Jerry Valentyn describes electrician Greg Dapper.
Forty-five years after Dapper stepped in as the business’s first employee, he was the “last to leave” for the final time Thursday, when he began his retirement.
“I’ve never dreaded coming to work,” Dapper said. “It’s been a great company to me and my family. I just had great people to work with. They take good care of their employees.”
A Faribault High School electronics class taught by Steve Temple played a role in Dapper’s decided career path. One of his most vivid memories of the class was when he was asked to fix the outlets under the table. He laughed as he remembered thinking, as a high school student, that electric work didn’t involve so much math.
Dapper’s career as an electrician began after he graduated from Dunwoody College in May 1974. He worked for a contractor in the Twin Cities as his first job after college, and after being laid off, the timing was right for a new opportunity.
Back in Faribault, Valentyn launched Cedar Lake Electric in April 1975. Valentyn had worked for Dapper’s uncle, who put in the good word about his nephew. The job opening brought Dapper back to his hometown and opened the door for a pair of significant life changes.
July 12, 1975, has dual meaning for Dapper. He not only began his long-term employment with Cedar Lake Electric on that day but also met his wife, Susie, at a wedding dance that evening.
Reflecting on years gone by within the business, Dapper remembers paying the bills in the kitchen instead of an office and working on projects before the advent of battery drills. Electric work has become easier with technological advancements, and wireless and LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have become the norm.
It was just Valentyn and Dapper working together in the business’ early years. Dapper wasn’t employed by Cedar Lake Electric every year since he started, but all together, he said he’s spent 37 years with the company. It was a big deal when the business acquired two vans and a trencher, and he noted another turning point was when Valentyn’s son, Jay, entered the scene in 1980.
“You couldn’t ask for a better company man and customer man,” said Jay Valentyn, now the company president. “Greg goes to bat for the company and the customer…. He’s been a great mentor to all of his apprentices, including me. Greg made work fun.”
One of Jay Valentyn’s favorite stories about Dapper involves “van number 99,” the company vehicle that has the same number as Wayne Gretzky, a favorite hockey player of Dapper’s. While inspecting the dividers in the van one day, Jay Valentyn noticed a picture of professional baseball player Mickey Mantle in the back of the vehicle. He realized Dapper had strategically placed the picture so he could see Mantle in the rear view mirror.
Cedar Lake Electric Vice President Nate Sevcik also expressed appreciation for Dapper’s commitment and hard work within the company.
“He’s our No. 1 requested electrician, 10 times more than the next guy, and that’s not an opinion, that’s a fact,” Sevcik said.
Said Jay Valentyn: “We all are truly grateful for what Greg has taught us. I can’t say enough good things about Greg, and I know Jerry and Nate can’t either. We’re sad to see him go but hope he enjoys retirement.”
Dapper joked that he’s never been retired before, so he isn’t quite sure.