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Former Juneau man returns home for crane project

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 25, 2013 at 10:53 am •  Published: November 25, 2013

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Mike Devon probably has one of the best views in town.

From atop a 130-foot tall tower crane in downtown Juneau, he gets a clear shot down the Gastineau Channel, and sometimes he can see all the way north of Taku Harbor, the Juneau Empire ( reported.

"It's pristine," he said. "When Juneau is sunshine-y, I don't think there's any place like it."

The 59-year-old, born and raised in Douglas, didn't return to his hometown to be the project crane operator on the Alaska State, Library, Archive and Museum just for the snowcapped mountaintop views, though. It was for his father, James Louis Devon, who lives in the Juneau Pioneer Home and just turned 90 in September.

"He's a wonderful man and a well-respected member of the community," Devon said. "Basically, I feel privileged and honored that he is my father."

The two share dinner about twice a week, and they like to go on drives. Occasionally, the father and son will ride the elevator in the Prospector Hotel up to the top floor to get a good view of Devon's job site in the Willoughby District.

"I show him the pictures that I take from the crane, he thinks it's pretty amazing," Devon said.

The elder Devon is a former accountant for the Federal Highway Administration. He did carpentry on the side.

"He was self-taught, and pretty well accomplished," Devon said.

Mike Devon also worked in carpentry, on the Alaska pipeline as a security guard and in the military before he saw "the writing on the wall" and became a crane operator. Long before "working his way to the top," as he put it with a wink and a nod, Devon operated his first crane in Juneau in the early '80s. He hopped into a ground level mobile crane at a small commercial building off Industrial Boulevard when his co-workers weren't paying attention.

"They were busy having coffee, and I thought I'd give it a whirl," Devon said mischievously.

That instance gave rise to his career as an operating engineer and 19-plus years working on cranes. The bulk of his work has been through Mowat Construction, based in Lynwood, Wash., and through the Washington and Alaska chapters of the International Union of Operating Engineers, a union for heavy equipment operators. He's worked on all sorts of projects across the Pacific Northwest.

The tallest crane he's ever operated was 550 feet. That was for a project in Belleview, Wash., where four tower cranes were going at once to build the Bravern, a mixed-use commercial and residential development.

That's massive compared to the crane he's working on now for the Alaska State, Library, Archive and Museum project on Willoughby Avenue. The SLAM project is the construction of a new facility that will house those three divisions under one roof in the same location as the Alaska State Museum building. The new facility will double the museum exhibition space and triple the collection storage of the state's current facility, and will have 118,000 square feet of new construction.

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