Faces of the Boom: North Carolina man goes from broke to back on his feet

Eric Bozeman works in the Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative’s dispatch center on Dec. 5, 2012, in Williston, N.D. Bozeman, formerly of North Carolina, monitors electrical loads and dispatches linemen. Amy Dalrymple/Forum Communications

WILLISTON, N.D. – Before coming to North Dakota, Eric Bozeman lost his car, was about to be evicted from his apartment and had to search for pocket change to buy food.

The former North Carolina journalist struggled to find even part-time work after media cutbacks left him unemployed after 19 years working as a writer.

When his job selling men’s suits in Charlotte, N.C., for $10 an hour was about to be cut to less than 12 hours a week, Bozeman started researching opportunities in other states.

Everything pointed the 47-year-old to Williston, even though he knew it was risky to arrive in a new state by bus with less than $100, no job lined up and no plan for housing.

“When you have no other choice, that’s what you do,” Bozeman said.

After about a year in Williston, Bozeman is on his way to a new career in energy with a job at an electric cooperative that’s also allowing him to go back to school.

“This has been an oasis for me,” Bozeman said. “This is a breath of fresh air.”

His first weeks in Williston weren’t easy, however. Bozeman’s first stop was the Williston Walmart parking lot on the advice of a bus driver to meet a man who needed workers. The man, who had no license plates on his vehicle, recruited Bozeman to help dig a ditch and provided him housing at a camp.

Bozeman gave that a try, but decided he didn’t feel comfortable with the arrangement.

“I really put myself in a dangerous situation,” Bozeman said.

He then got some housing assistance from the Salvation Army and later spent about six weeks sleeping at Williston’s Concordia Lutheran Church while he searched for work.

Bozeman said he feels like God was watching out for him because he never had to spend a night outside, he never went hungry and he always had someone willing to give him a ride.

“I couldn’t have done this all by myself,” Bozeman said.

Last February, Bozeman got a job with Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative, which is rapidly expanding to meet the growing energy needs of the Oil Patch.

He works as a systems operator in the dispatch center of the cooperative, monitoring electrical loads and dispatching linemen to address outages. Bozeman didn’t have any technical experience, but he received on-the-job training and is taking online classes through Bismarck State College.

Bozeman said he would like to continue his education to earn a four-year energy management degree.

“I have a job that has what I call long legs,” Bozeman said.

While many who come to North Dakota for work expect to return to their home states, Bozeman said he plans to settle in Williston.

“It made more sense to me to look at this as home because this is where the work is,” Bozeman said. “It’s just a soft place to land and start over.”

6 thoughts on “Faces of the Boom: North Carolina man goes from broke to back on his feet

  1. Welcome to Williston Eric! These are the types of stories we all want to hear these days. With all the activity and changes going on, it’s easy to lose site of the positive impact this is having on so many people’s lives.

    • Thank you Stuart, after much prayer, some courage, and the two day ride here, I was pleased to arrive at such a nice place.

  2. It is great to hear things are going well for you. I am glad you got the help to get started. I gave two guys from Ethiopia via Denver a place to live. They had jobs and were sleeping in their car for over a month. They still live in my basement, are doing great, and are pleasure to know.

    Lets hope there are many stories like yours Eric. Best of luck in you new job.

    • Thanks Jerry, folks here have been wonderful, and thank you for being so kind in taking those two guys in. That was very nice of you!

  3. Welcome to Williston :) My husband and I came to North Dakota via the U.S. Air Force and knew there was no place else we wanted to live when he retired. Things have been rough here lately with as much development as we have going on. We are also have quite a few growing pains, but as things settle down I hope we see more people who want to settle here like you.

    Again, welcome :)

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