Home Is the Hunter

After Seeing the World, Oregonian Is Happy in Hermiston

By Rodger Nichols

Tyler Hoffert checks his gear before diving into the icy waters off Skagway, Alaska. Photos Courtesy of Tyler Hoffert

Tyler Hoffert, 1 of Northern Wasco County PUD’s (NWCPUD) newest employees, grew up in Eastern Oregon and is a 2010 graduate of Hermiston High School.

Although his childhood was rural, Tyler’s adulthood has been anything but. After school, he joined the Marines for 3 years and was stationed in California.

Then he went into commercial diving, specializing as an underwater welder technician.

“It was a lot of repairs for things like gearboxes and thrusters,” Tyler says. “A lot of very technical welding.” It was a job that took him all over the world. “All our work was international, and it was pretty hectic for about 10 years,” Tyler says. “We were basically flying out every other week to some other country to work on ships and oil rigs. I’ve been underwater in seas around 5 continents.”

On 1 memorable occasion, Tyler and another diver flew to Australia for a job, only to discover upon arrival that their work permit paperwork hadn’t been forwarded to Australian officials.

“My buddy and I had lunch at the airport and laughed about it,” he says. “Then they kicked us out of the country, and we flew back to Miami and the next job.”

After military service and 6 years of hopscotch around the world, Tyler decided to settle down and return home to his Hermiston roots. His family ranches cattle in the area.

Tyler quickly found a job with a paper mill in Wallula, Washington, a 30-minute commute from Hermiston.

“They hired me as 1 of their roll rebuilders,” he says. “Again, it was a lot of technical work with bearings and gearboxes.”

Tyler stands near Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure at 2,722 feet, just more than half a mile.

3 years into the job, Tyler heard about an opening at Northern Wasco County PUD for an experienced technician at the McNary Dam co-generation site, which is a joint operation with Klickitat PUD. His first day on the job was January 8.

Tyler says his job might best be defined as a turbine operator.

“Electrical generation is a much more complex operation than people might think,” he says, citing several systems that need to be constantly monitored and maintained. “I don’t come from an electrical generation background, so it’s a very interesting process for me.”

Tyler is thankful he doesn’t have to use any of his diving expertise in his new job. “We’ve talked about it, but I think it’s a good thing that we use contractors,” he says. “I’ve dived in the Columbia River many times, and it’s not a fun place to be.”

Tyler says it’s amazing how much in-house work the PUD does. “It’s a very small crew that does all the troubleshooting, runs this place and keeps everything going,” he says. When not working, Tyler is a big fan of the outdoors.

“I grew up hunting, and I still hunt,” he says. “My grandpa was a fish and game warden in the Columbia Basin for over 40 years. I hunted with him my whole life, and it was through him I learned the little nooks and crannies of the forest and tried to stay off the roads and away from the people.”

Tyler’s best score was a 6-point bull he shot outside of Heppner just before he went into the Marines. In his diving years, he didn’t have much chance to hunt but is now getting back into the sport. But that’s not all he does outdoors.

“I ride snowmobiles in the winter and dirt bikes in the summer,” he says. “I like to go up to the mountains and hang out at my grandparents’ cabin, and I do a little bit of farming here and there.”

Tyler says he’s happy to be working at the PUD. “It’s 1 of the better jobs I’ve ever had,” he says. “It’s a really good group of guys, and it’s very relaxed. The stress levels are low, and there’s a really good management system that sees what needs to be done and lays out a very good plan. I like the structure, and I think I’m gonna be here a long time.”