Voices of the mill: Steve Purnell, 57, of Mount Vernon
Boiler Operator, 27 years
The Last Smokestack
Faces of the mill
More mill stories
- Federal aid to help 570 K-C mill employees find work (April 2012)
- Julie Muhlstein: Kimberly-Clark mill's end ‘devastating' (January 2012)
- Mike Benbow: 'Last of the big smokestacks' (September 2011)
- Op-Ed: Weigh in on the K-C site's future (March 2012)
- Pete Jackson: More than pulp and steam (September 2011)
- Talks begin on future of Kimberly-Clark mill site (April 2012)
- Voices of the mill: A strawberry princess turned boiler operator (March 2012)
When Scott Paper Co. started in Everett in the 1950s, it owned thousands of acres of timberlands. That way it could control the process of making paper products from start to finish.
Steve Purnell started his career in Granite Falls in 1979 at some of those timberlands, preparing land before or after logging.
He liked the work so much he thought he'd go into forestry. Instead, the company shut down its timberland work. He ended up working at the mill, his first job there watching roll after roll fly by.
Later he moved into the utilities department, where he helped make power: first by bulldozing fuel into boilers, and later by operating a boiler.
“It's been a good job,” he said. “It's a good source of income. It's a shame to see it go.”
Now, he's trying to figure out what to do next. He's applying for boiler jobs around the country — there's not much call for running huge boilers in the Northwest.
He's still employed until mid-April.
The closure of the mill signals something to Purnell — and it's not good.
“I think it's just sad,” he said. “It's what made the U.S. great and now they are destroying what made them great. How can you not reinvest in the America that made you great? How can you not do that? It seems irresponsible.”
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