Leo Papineau walked into a Williston insurance office 45 years ago to get a quote on an auto policy. He got the quote and a job offer and took both.
In recognizing Papineau, 70, for his longevity with Farmers Insurance Group, the Minot office at 811 S. Broadway hosted an open house for him in December 2009.
Papineau stresses that it's not a retirement party. Ask him if he plans to keep on selling insurance and you're likely to hear his resounding, "You betcha."
"The only thing I want to let people know is I plan on being here for years to come," Papineau said. "I don't feel like retiring. I still plan on being here, taking care of my customers."
That will come as a relief to his customers.
"I am glad of that because I like Leo," said Eileen Bader, a long-time Minot client. "He's become a real friend because we have done business with him for so long. I can go and visit with him any time, and he's always happy to see me and happy to visit with me and answer my questions. He's a very good agent. He knows his stuff."
Archie Kress of Minot, the district manager who offered Papineau a job 45 years ago in Williston, said he could see that the potential customer who came into his office was likeable, a hard worker and a good agent prospect. A native of Williston, Papineau had worked for a cement company and was working for a tire company when he inquired at Farmers Insurance just as Kress happened to be looking for another agent.
Kress, who retired from Farmers Insurance in 1986, is not surprised that Papineau has done so well in the business.
"He was honest. He was friendly. He worked hard," he said. "He's happy doing what he's doing."
Papineau said he's never had a reason to leave Farmers Insurance.
"I have always liked the company," he said.
He did make one change moving to Minot in 1968 to assume the office of a retiring Farmers Insurance agent. Minot has remained home for Papineau and his wife, Katie, as well as son Clark. It's where Papineau chose to build his business.
"You have to really work. It's not a 9-to-5 day, especially when you are starting. I worked a lot of nights and weekends," he said.
Papineau still makes himself available to customers after hours. Service is his trademark, and it's what draws new customers and keeps them coming back, he said. It's also earned him multiple achievement awards from Farmers Insurance.
His dedication accounts for his longevity in an industry where 45-year tenures are uncommon.
"I have seen a lot of agents come and go," said Papineau, who has mentored new agents and enjoyed the camaraderie of his colleagues.
He's also seen premiums increase dramatically from the days when a person could get liability insurance on an auto for $6.60 for six months. He's seen technology changes that have moved much of the paper work to computer, although he hasn't completely replaced the paper.
"I still have paper files. I am kind of old-fashioned," he said.
One thing that has remained steady is the loyalty of his customers. His list of customers includes three-generation families.
Papineau said he finds enough time to hunt and fish without retiring, but the main reason he's sticking with his job is the relationship that he's established with his customers. They don't want him to retire, he said. Having satisfied his customers for 45 years, he's not going to disappoint them now.