Lumber Person of the Year: Evan MacDermott, Coastal Forest Products
Wood is not just the building material on which Lumber Person of the Year Evan MacDermott makes his living; it seems to be the recurring theme of his life. He began his career working with wood in a much more natural state. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in 1984 with a degree in forestry science, he accepted a job as a forester for the Massachusetts Metropolitan District Commission (now a part of the Department of Conservation and Recreation) in Boston. His job was to reduce the fire load from gypsy moth deforestation, which had spiked the previous year. Evan migrated to the lumber industry shortly thereafter (“It beats working for the state.”) and has remained a lumberman ever since. It’s no wonder that as a participant in the YMCA’s Indian Guides program, he earned the name “Great Wood Spirit.”
Evan has been with Coastal Forest Products for 17 years, but there have been many stops along his journey through the lumber industry. He was brought in by Gil Adams of Warren Trask, and accepted a job driving a forklift and unloading trucks and freight cars at the terminal in Waterbury, Connecticut. It was in Warren Trask’s warehouses where he got a re-education of sorts, learning about redwood, cedar, pine, fir and spruce not as trees in a forest but as building materials to be sorted into orders and inventory units.
He relocated to Massachusetts to work in the head office, where he learned the ropes of buying lumber and taking inside sales calls. Warren Trask eventually sent him out west to Oregon, where he learned the wholesale side of the business courtesy of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association. When he came back east, he returned to Connecticut, working outside sales and covering the western part of the state and eastern New York.
After taking a job with Connecticut Reserve Supply, Evan learned millwork and a variety of other building materials. Since then, he’s done stints with Atlantic Building Products, Manufacturers Reserve Supply and Philadelphia Forest Products. Evan’s services always seem to be in high demand in the lumber industry: his current tenure at Coastal is actually the second time he’s worked for the company, and he also worked twice for Atlantic. He has also taken a leadership role in the industry, serving on the board of the Lumber Dealers Association of Connecticut for the last eight years.
Evan credits his boss at Coastal, Ted Severance, with providing him the wealth of knowledge he has needed to succeed. In particular, he cites the many trips they have taken to learn about the products they sell. “We’ve been on mill trips to Northern California to see the Great Redwoods, Quebec to see the manufacturing of white cedar shingles, Alabama to see fiberglass columns being spun,” Evan recalls.
In addition to being a true lumberman, Evan is also a first-class family man. He was born and raised in New Jersey, where he did not have an easy childhood. His parents divorced when he was 11 and he mostly grew up without a father. His family struggled financially and turned to public assistance to make ends meet. Evan drifted into the wrong kind of company in high school, but the special attention of his football coaches provided the guidance he needed; he managed to straighten himself out and earn a full scholarship to play football scholarship at UNH.
The difficulties Evan experienced in his youth shaped him, and they’re the reason why he remains such a devoted father to his children Ashley, 27, and Chace, 25. He made it a point to be engaged in sports and other activities, including the aforementioned Indian Guides.
The mother of those children is Evan’s wife, Donna, to whom he’s been married for 30 years. (They’ve been together for 32.) He met her in his senior year at UNH; they were both attending a “50 days to graduation” party. Later that night he told his roommates that he had met his future wife. They thought he was nuts, but she’s been “the love of my life” ever since. “I get out of bed every day thinking today is going to be yet another great day,” he exclaims. “Life can be hard and unfair but it’s well worth taking the journey. Trying to have a good attitude and happy disposition has been a great way to live my life.”
When he’s not spending time with his family or working as the “Great Wood Spirit,” Evan enjoys unwinding on the golf course, where he claims he’s famous for – what else? – hitting the ball deep into the woods.