Linemen Life on Mackinac Island

Filled with history, horse-drawn carriages and fudge – Mackinac Island is one of Michigan’s most iconic tourist destinations. Visitors from across the globe come to experience the unique island lifestyle. While the island has its own special magic - transporting visitors from present-day to “Somewhere in Time” – island residents rely on modern conveniences such as electricity for daily life.

Cloverland’s Mackinac Island shop has all the necessary equipment to manage power outages and equipment repairs – yet the trucks are rarely seen by visitors.

Island electricity is provided by Cloverland Electric Cooperative and maintained by island-based line foreman, Don Smith and lineman, Mark Guisinger. While Mackinac Island is a beautiful place to live and work, performing linework on an island with no motor vehicles is a unique, sometimes challenging task.

During peak tourist season from May to November, the island line crew uses bikes to traverse from the Cloverland shop to job sites, carrying line and safety equipment with them to each location. Averaging 700 miles on their bikes each season, Smith and Guisinger are guaranteed to get a workout each day.

Relying on bikes for transportation is part of the island lifestyle and the crew has developed methods of efficiency for their unique version of linework. Smith and Guisinger fill their days responding to tickets from Cloverland’s Control Center and patrolling lines for areas that might need tree trimming or other improvements. Many power lines on the island are underground, but outages still occur with underground and overhead lines, usually caused by the effects of severe weather. On rainy days with no outages, the crew works on maintenance tasks at the co-op’s shop tucked away less than a half-mile from The Grand Hotel.

Biking is the primary mode of transportation for the Mackinac Island line crew for most of the year. Island native, Don Smith (right), has served the co-op for 23 years and Mark Guisinger (left) has served for three years.

“We receive all the same outage situations as they do on the mainland, but the way we respond is a bit different,” Guisinger states. “Each job requires more preparation and planning. We carry all our equipment on our bike trailer, so we don’t want to forget a part and make the ride twice.”

While Cloverland does have a bucket and digger truck on the island, it is usually reserved for off-season months. Smith explains taking a truck out during the peak season months takes many calls to various island officials, ensuring the truck can safely maneuver between tourists, bikes and horses without disturbing the island experience. In the winter months, the line crew switches from bikes to snowmobiles, a welcome method of travel after months of biking around the island.

The Mackinac Island line crew plays an important role in Cloverland’s mission of ensuring the lights stay on across the Cooperative’s service territory. With a combined 26 years at the cooperative, their teamwork has been a resource to both the island and the co-op.

“It takes a unique personality to adapt to our island lifestyle,” Smith describes. “For the right person, living on the island is a great opportunity.”

A tight-knit island community, beautiful views of the Straights of Mackinac and an office filled with history ensures the island line crew has one of the most unique and beautiful job locations in Michigan.


By: Abby Bell