Making It Here: The Island Electrician

Goodell Electric keeps the lights on for North Haven.

By Courtney Naliboff

With a truckload of parts and a helper by his side, Trenor Goodell has kept Goodell Electric alive on North Haven for over a decade. Island life, while posing unique challenges, offers an interdependency that Goodell attributes to his success at making it here.

“That’s one thing about islands—we support each other, and almost every business owner would rather spend their money locally and support their fellow islanders, so that’s worked out well for all,” he says.

Goodell moved to North Haven from Peaks Island in 2005 with his family. Though he studied electrical engineering at  the University of Maine in Orono, he was drawn to the  electrician’s trade.

He and his wife saw electrical work “as a way to live where we wanted to, to give me the flexibility to be an employer as opposed to an employee, and run my business in a location that I enjoyed,” Goodell says.

Goodell employs a full-time licensed helper and says he’s proud to be able to offer a living wage. Although no one has taken him up on the offer, he says he would help defray the cost of coursework for a helper to work towards a master electrician’s license. He sees the trades as a pathway to a living wage without the burden of college debt, and encourages high school students to consider a two-year trade program as the fastest way into the field.

North Haven provides Goodell Electric with a variety of jobs, from new construction to critical repairs at the school.

“You have to make the town run, whatever it takes. We do repairs at the ferry service, anything that’s necessary,” he says. At 7:30 each morning, Goodell and his employee leave from his home shop, alternating between service days and days spent “roughing in” at a construction site. For a customer without heat or hot water, Goodell makes the effort to arrive quickly.

“Our service call response for an emergency is on the order of an hour or two, and on an island people really appreciate that,” he says.

Goodell Electric’s quick response time and professionalism keep island contractors calling.

“He’s actually super responsive,” says Abel LaBelle, owner of LaBelle Building. “I call him and he might come over the same day or the next day if it’s a small thing that needs to be taken care of. It’s hard to believe you’d get that most places.”

Goodell Electric also works closely with Cooper Construction.

man operating powertool

“Service calls are a service that we do for people, but it’s the building projects that make the business viable and sustainable,” he says. “Without those we’d have to go elsewhere.”

Goodell Electric also works with many non-construction-related island businesses and facilities. He’s been involved in major projects, such as renovations at the town office and  work at Nebo Lodge, Turner Farm, North Haven Brewery  and PM Auto.

“We’ve had a good reciprocal relationship with the local businesses,” Goodell says.

Owning a business on an island has some obvious challenges.

“I carry more inventory than my mentor on the mainland because he could just run to a store, but I can’t just run to a store.”
Trenor Goodell

“We have a $50,000 inventory of components and things because we’re on an island. I carry more inventory than my mentor on the mainland because he could just run to a store, but I can’t just run to a store. I’m out of work for a day if I don’t have what I need,” Goodell says.

In a real pinch, Penobscot Island Air has become a new resource.

“I’ve been using PIA lately—the plane’s been able to help us out. I had a customer who lost the main breaker on his house. We flew it in the next day.”

Despite the challenges, Goodell finds island business ownership worthwhile.

“There is satisfaction from building things, making things, maybe leaving something behind–your life’s work that you can see, you can touch,” he says.


Courtney Naliboff teaches music, theater, and English at North Haven Community School. She writes about rural  Jewish life and parenting for Kveller,,  The Working Waterfront, and the Frozen Chosen blog for  the Bangor Daily News.