Aerial Lift Bridge operator hangs up hat after nearly 30 years

DULUTH, MN – As the Twin Ports shipping season comes to a close, so does a decades-long career for one Aerial Lift Bridge Operator.

On Thursday, after nearly 30 years, Paul Thomas put in his last shift as a bridge operator.

Credit: Kim Oppelt
Credit: Kim Oppelt

Thomas is a life-long resident of Duluth and started working with the city after four years with the Marines.

Family members gathered on the bridge Thursday with signs in hand to celebrate his retirement.

They all refer to the iconic bridge as “Pauly’s Bridge”.

Credit: Kim Oppelt

“He has great pride in his work and the bridge has been part of his identity over the past three decades,” said Kim Oppelt, Thomas’ niece.

Thomas wasn’t much up for sharing his story, Oppelt said. “He wants to lay low.”

During his years working as an operator, Oppelt said Thomas captured plenty of Lake Superior sunrises and sunsets and the ships that would make their way to the Twin Ports.

Credit: Kim Oppelt
Kevin Jacobsen

Kevin Jacobsen

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