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People to Know: Don Gerdes, Forester

Tips and Techniques for Felling and Cutting Trees is a very popular seminar at the EIEC Annual Meeting every year. Don Gerdes, EIEC forester, is the presenter and often there’s standing room only for his seminar, as he is very knowledgeable about everything having to do with trees. He talks about safety when using a chain saw and Don always has a fascinating story about his interaction with raccoons.

Don has over three decades of experience and he learned from some of the best in the business. Don began his vegetation management career with Price Tree Service and was eventually recruited by Dean Price to work for the co-op as a forester. Don has continued in his role of forester and now he works in concert with Junior Price to keep power lines free and clear of limbs, branches and trees.

As forester for EIEC, he has the important job of managing a tree trimming rotation of every four years. Don and Junior trim and remove tree branches and limbs on a planned schedule throughout the 10 county EIEC territory. Eastern Illini’s primary responsibility is to provide safe, reliable electricity to members. Keeping lines clear of trees is necessary to deliver better quality service to EIEC members.

The distance a tree is trimmed depends on the type of tree and voltage. In some instances, the removal of a tree is required. This is especially the case when public safety is involved. A tree may be removed because it is dead, dying, or damaged. The methods used to trim trees help the tree retain its natural shape, decrease future trimming needs, and direct future growth away from electric lines.

Don wants members to know how important it is to look up, look down and all around before planting a tree. Always call JULIE at 811 or 1-800-892-0123 before digging. JULIE will arrange for underground cable related to electric, cable, telephone, and gas lines to be safely located and marked. Sometimes selecting the wrong tree and planting it near utility rights-of-way can cause safety concerns and service interruptions. With years of experience under his belt, Don has seen outages and power interruptions decrease significantly due to proper trimming and maintenance of trees near power lines. Don’s favorite tree is the Official State Tree of Illinois, the White Oak. He’s not really a fan of walnut trees and he is dreading the removal of more than 100 ash trees on the acreage he owns in DelRey.

When Don isn’t busy trimming trees with his chain saw, you’ll find him cheering on his grandchildren at baseball games. He also enjoys bow hunting and trapping coyotes. Whenever possible, Don travels to one of his favorite destinations: Payson, Arizona, a cool mountain town in the Tonto National Forest. Payson is home to the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo and a very scenic area of Arizona.

Don has several unique goals on his bucket list. He wants to hunt elk in Arizona. A permit is required for elk hunting and an annual lottery determines who gets the permits. Don also has plans to visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Don was amazed by the spectacular views of the Grand Canyon when he visited. He hopes to someday hike down the South Rim.

Don is married to Sherri whom he met at the Onarga Best Supermarket when he worked there as a young adult. He has two children, Amanda and Jake and seven grandchildren.
Don recently purchased a paddle boat, so his grandchildren can paddle around the DelRey swamp located on his property.

Don’s favorite meal is steak and potatoes. Air conditioning in his home and vehicle is the modern convenience Don can’t live without.

These days Don has his hands full with his rambunctious dog, Sammy. Sammy is a Jagdterrier, which is a German-bred, tenacious terrier who is known for hunting wild boar, badger, fox and weasel. Don traveled to southern Oklahoma, just six miles from the Texas border to pick up Sammy. His pup is an extremely athletic dog, but according to Don, quite a pistol.