SWANTON –– Corey Bertrand is a master electrician, and he wears the designation proudly.
“It’s a rewarding job,” he said recently, at Bertrand Electric, which he operates from a 2,500 square-foot building on Rte. 7, in southern Swanton. “You do something that not a lot of people can, and you help others. It’s very gratifying. It’s a good feeling.”
Corey is right: not everyone is a master electrician. Actually, he estimates that out of all the electricians working in Franklin County, 50 percent of them are master electricians.
Electricians that don’t carry a master’s license, or are overseen by master electricians, are legally prohibited from performing certain types of work in the commercial and industrial sectors – yet many do.
In Corey’s field, a “master” can perform all types of electrical work in residential, industrial and commercial areas. Master electricians can also install, maintain and repair fire alarms, as well as security and solar systems.
Corey earned his master’s license while attending five year of school and working in his field as a journeyman. “Apprentices” study under journeymen, while journeyman prepare for their rigorous master’s test.
“It’s very difficult,” Corey said of the exam – but it’s worth it. “I’m able to branch out on 70 percent more work than a journeyman or non-licensed electrician can,” he said.
Corey is the master electrician at Bertrand Electric. His other crewmen include: David Ste. Pierre, journeyman, of Swanton; and apprentices Jesse Lawyer, of St. Albans, and Lucien Robtoy, of Swanton.
Bertrand Electric has been in its current location for about a year. Julian Nunez, now operating under the business name “Nunez Solar,” sold the property to Corey but still rents office space there for Nunez Solar. There is an apartment and dance studio in the rear.
Some of Bertrand Electric’s more recent, large-scale projects – for which Corey often hires subcontractors – include the new dryer at the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery and lighting and back-up generators at Mylan Technologies. Bertrand Electric is also the official electrician for all of Vermont’s Jolley and SB Collins Stores.
“That’s one of the things I like about this line of work,” Corey said. “Every day is different.”
Corey grew up a self-described “gadget-head” in Highgate Springs. He worked in the maintenance department at The Tyler Place Resort, also in Highgate Springs, during summers, until he graduated from Missisquoi Valley Union High School in 1996.
“That’s basically where I started learning general electrical repair,” Corey said of The Tyler Place. “Boat repair. Carpentry. Plumbing. A little bit of everything, and that was good for me.”
Corey enlisted in the U.S. Navy for four years, but 2 ½ months into his service, he contracted a strange case of psoriasis – with no history prior, and no sign of it since. Unfortunately, Corey and five other people on his crew received a medical discharge.
“You can’t be near seawater with a skin condition when you’re in the Navy,” Corey explained.
After Corey returned to Vermont, a friend’s father offered him a job as an electrician’s apprentice, and Corey stayed on the track from there.
He hopes that, perhaps, some day, he will be able to pass Bertrand Electric on to one of the four children he shares with his wife, Kelly.
“That’s mainly what I want to do,” Corey said.