Mike Stinson has reached his 20th year as a pool service professional, but much as he loves it, that isn’t the career he originally envisioned. He got a B.A. in history from St. Mary’s College of California and some years later, set his sights on becoming a firefighter. He even became certified as an emergency medical technician (EMT) at Sierra College because he knew he’d have a better chance of joining the firefighter ranks that way.

“I didn’t choose the pool industry,” Stinson said. “It chose me.” On a job board at college, he saw an ad for a pool maintenance position, applied and was hired by Premier Pools. After four months, he was switched to sales. Five months later, Stinson was transferred to remodeling and later to pool building. “Now I understand how a pool works,” he said. “It’s really a huge blessing, though I kicked and screamed [at all the different assignments] at the time.”

He loved being around pools and as he became more involved, he gave up his firefighter aspirations. Now he has his own service firm — Mike the Poolman. With more than 100 pools on his route, he’s devoted to ensuring that home owners in the suburbs of Sacramento, Calif., have crystal clear, well-maintained pools. A licensed contractor and scuba diver, Stinson is active in the industry, as well as racking up countless hours in the classroom, absorbing even more trade skills.

At home, he and wife Shawna have three children — Sophia, 6, and twin boys Sean and Joey, 4 1/2 years old. Not surprisingly, he built a pool at their Folsom, Calif. home The free-form, inground gunite pool has fiberoptic and perimeter lights, in-floor stars, waterfalls and a beach entry, plus there’s an aboveground spa. When he’s not relaxing there in his off hours, Stinson likes to race his mountain bike.

“Everyone in this business has a funny story,” Stinson added. Then he shared one of his own: It was 1994, a week before Christmas, when he accidentally fell into the frigid water of a pool he was servicing. “I jumped out and ripped off my clothes. I ran to the back [of the house] and pounded on the window. I was completely naked. The homeowner looked out. ‘Please get me a towel or blanket,’ I said. She just stared, and I repeated my request. Finally she snapped out of it and got me a blanket. I was minutes from hypothermia. … I took my clothes home and put them in the dryer; that was all for the day. She’s still a weekly client and every year at Christmas, she asks if I’m going to go swimming.”