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Cote logs 31-year sawmill career

MASARDIS, Maine – After hiring over 2,000 employees, Mike Cote of Ashland is retiring as human resources manager at Maibec Lumber. Cote has worked for the company that has also been owned by Brookfield Asset Management, Fraser Paper, and started by J. Paul Levesque as Levesque Lumber, since January of 1985.

Retiring Maibec Director of Human Resources Mike Cote, second from right, was recently honored at a ceremony at the Masardis mill and during a dinner in his honor at Dean’s in Portage Lake. Making a presentation were, from left, Charles Tardif, owner of Maibec, Inc.; Sylvain Naud, vice president for human resources; and Patrick Labonte, general manager. (Contributed photo)

Retiring Maibec Director of Human Resources Mike Cote, second from right, was recently honored at a ceremony at the Masardis mill and during a dinner in his honor at Dean’s in Portage Lake. Making a presentation were, from left, Charles Tardif, owner of Maibec, Inc.; Sylvain Naud, vice president for human resources; and Patrick Labonte, general manager. (Contributed photo)

Retiring Maibec Director of Human Resources Mike Cote, second from right, was recently honored at a ceremony at the Masardis mill and during a dinner in his honor at Dean’s in Portage Lake. Making a presentation were, from left, Charles Tardif, owner of Maibec, Inc.; Sylvain Naud, vice president for human resources; and Patrick Labonte, general manager.

Cote explained that he came into this position from being Ashland’s recreation director for five years. “I was really green when J. Paul Levesque offered me the job,” he said. “I had to learn to become patient, and a good listener when dealing with people, trying to find the right fit … and a good communicator. Honestly, refereeing over the years really helped me with those skills.” Don Bouley of Ashland, production manager for Maibec, remembers very well when Cote was hired. He said it took a while for him to “learn the ropes,” with a lot of on-the-job training. “But eventually he was able to find people to fill positions when we needed it, and knew exactly who to call when there was a problem or an issue. After 30 years, he had everything right at the top of his head. He will be missed, that’s for sure,” Bouley said. Cote lists creating a safely program at the mill and hiring a full-time safety director among his greatest achievements while on the job. Recruiting employees and problem solving in the face of changing economic conditions were also challenges that he and the administrative team were able to overcome. “But I’m really going to miss interacting with all the people,” Cote said. “Not only the ones at Maibec, but other business associates from places like North America Administrators, Employee Benefits Design, the Career Center and TEMPO that I have worked with over the years.” He explained that many of the veteran employees at Maibec started with him back in the Levesque Lumber days. “We’ve all been through a lot together,” he said. “Mike Cote has been an important asset to this operation from the beginning, ensuring the growth of the company by hiring a great majority of the employees who joined the organization for more than 30 years,” said Sylvain Naud, vice president for human resources at Maibec, Inc. “Mike was a great help during Maibec’s transition and ownership of the mill, which was a very challenging year in the history of the organization. We wish him well in his retirement.” Cote is being replaced at Maibec by Ben Lothrop, also of Ashland, who has been training since the first of June. Lothrop has been in education for 20 years, recently serving as principal of Van Buren District School for the past five years. Maibec, Inc. is a Canadian-owned company, and has been in the wood business since 1946. The organization purchased the Masardis mill in January 2015. Cote’s two brothers, Danny and David, both of Ashland, are also Maibec employees. Cote is also well-known in the local area as a high school basketball official, refereeing over 1,500 games in his 33-year officiating career for IAABO 150. He is also an avid golfer and enjoys riding his motorcycle, and watching baseball games. “I plan to play a little more golf, and get involved a little more with donating my time to work at the Portage Hills Country Club,” Cote said. “I also have a few short trips planned this summer, and have a few projects to do around the house that Joanne has planned for me. This winter, well, I’m not sure. After plowing snow, I may get involved in doing basketball on radio, or even refereeing some middle school basketball games, if my legs hold out.”

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