Mechanic Steve Bagg found his calling while a teenager
by Paula Coughlan
ELBURNâ€”Over a piece of Steve Baggâ€™s anniversary cake, decorated with trees, farmland, and of course, miniature tractors, the 30-year John Deere employee recounted how he, as a kid, was very interested in football and baseball, until he discovered tractors and fell in love with working on them at age 15.
The cake was provided by Hogan-Walker John Deere dealership in Elburn, which celebrated Baggâ€™s three decades with the company this week.
Bagg, the storeâ€™s longtime mechanic, is surprised that he has stayed in the same job since he was 19.
â€œI would have never guessed back then that Iâ€™d still be here, doing what I love,â€ Bagg said. â€œI sure never thought Iâ€™d end up being the longest-time employee.â€
For Bagg, working on tractors is not just a job. His interest in machinery continues after work hours when he goes home to work on farm equipment for the fun of it, he said. He has a passion for antique gas engines and old tractors and has restored a rare 1915 Challenge upright and his dadâ€™s 1957 John Deere 720 diesel.
Bagg learned how to fix tractors from two mentors. One was his father George, a grain and cattle farmer, known for being able to make anything out of anything, and who once rebuilt a farm tractor to have a road speed of 80 mph. When Bagg went to work at the Elburn store as a teenager, he learned more from master mechanic Marty Straussberger.
Bagg has been a mentor, too, teaching new employees at the Elburn dealership. He also belongs to the North Eastern 2 Cylinder Club and the Northern Illinois Steam Engine Club, sometimes serving as director of both.
Bagg has managed the shop from time to time, but when the position was offered to him permanently he declined, opting to stay in the shop to work on machinery.
â€œI really like people but am happiest when Iâ€™m working with them one-on-one, versus trying to be a boss over all of them,â€ Steve said.
As the business grew, changing hands and changing focus from farm equipment to commercial and consumer equipment, Bagg attended many John Deere classes, always scoring at the top of his class. In a time when electronics are replacing diagnosticians, Bagg can sometimes tell you what is wrong and how to fix equipment faster than a computer.
â€œA lot of our John Deere training is now done on computer, right here at the store,â€ Steve said. â€œI donâ€™t mind doing work on the computer, but use it only as much as I have to, such as ordering parts. I prefer to just be out there working on the equipment.â€
Store manager Noel Phillips complimented his lead technician.
â€œSteve is a soft-spoken, hard-working man who gives 100 percent all day,â€ Phillips said. â€œHe has given back what was shared with him and applied his knowledge to the benefit of a grateful employer and community. Please stop by to congratulate Steve.â€
Photo: Steve Bagg, longtime mechanic at Hogan-Walker John Deere in Elburn, specializes in fixing tractors, a skill he has honed since he was a teenager. Photo by Martha Quetsch