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f The Wescolite Student Newspaper Maintenance Supervisor has long history at Western 1 0 December 8, 2004 Staff Profile By Estelle Hill Warm afternoon sun light casts an aura of con tentment across the office. All was quiet on the W estern frontier. Lee Richardson, Maintenance Supervisor of the UM-Westem campus, arms crossed behind his head, a puzzled frown on his forehead, queried “Why would you want to interview me?” In the 1960’s Lee Richardson fell in love with Western, the Dillon community and Merri, a local girl. He and his buddy, Dale Brenson, yearning to be far away from hometown Antelope, population 90 “count ing all the cats and dogs”, and still be in Montana, chose Dillon. They heard Dillon was a Mecca of good hunting and fishing, important qualifiers for college bound young men, so they moved west. Lee entered the education arena with the blessing of his mother, an elementary teacher. His chosen fields of PE and Indus trial Arts allowed him to combine his en thusiasms for physical activity, working with his hands, being innovative, and his love of working with young people. Lee earned his teaching degree from Western in 1968 and wed Merri the summer follow ing her graduation in 1969. “In the spring of 1968 I had all my paperwork in place preparatory to gradua tion. I was doing spring fieldwork on a farm north of town, when Western con tacted Mrs. Taylor. She sped out to the field with an urgent message ‘the Superin tendent of the Conrad Schools was on cam pus interviewing for teaching positions.’ I zoomed into town, like a meteor, garbed in my coveralls, covered with a full work day’s dust and went through the interview process. The next day the Superintendent called and said he was sending me a con tract in the mail.” Lee recalled with a chortle. Thirty-one years later, after teaching Shop and PE in one location, Lee retired. He felt it was time to open the doors for new ideas, for his students as well as him self. His wife got the job as Principal of Whitehall High School, but Lee could not give up working with young people so he sought “retirement” employment. River side Youth Correction in Boulder was seek ing someone to teach Industrial Arts, P.E. and work maintenance part time. “The job was tailor made for me. At Conrad I had taught the same areas and was the resident fix-it guy. Whenever something was bro ken, didn’t work or needed to be made or modified, I was the person they called for the job. I remember one time in 1976 when the Conrad School was being re modeled, the principal came with his con cern about the inability for classes to be dismissed and transitioned in a smooth manner. I said ‘just leave it to me’. I ac quired an air horn from a wrecked semi truck, hooked it to a portable air compres sor and there were no more problems' with class changes.” Lee recalled with a mis chievous chuckle in his voice. Four years later Lee heard the position for full-time maintenance supervisor was available at his alma mater. This was the ideal job for him. He could combine his passions; working with young people, the Western campus, Dillon community and his mechanical inclinations, to give him a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Lee has a mechanical mind and a good grasp of the building systems to make the job easier. “I am thrilled to be part of the campus that holds so many of my fondest memories.” His biggest challenge at Western is to motivate staff to work harder and be more productive. “This is a challenge,” he said “because one of the biggest changes I have seen over the past 30 years is that young people of today have yet to develop a work ethic. I have to work hard at being patient and recognize I need to try to teach them how to work and help instill a work ethic in them.” Lee feels one way to over come this dilemma is for parents to give their children chores. “It is important for kids to have responsibilities. Parents should foster a work ethic by working side by side with their children.” Lee’s advice to new people on the job is, “It is important to be positive, look for what needs to be done, and do your best with what you have.” Another obstacle to overcome is bud get constraints and the necessity of doing more with fewer resources. This challenge is easier met by the understanding and realistic expectations of people he works with, in the maintenance department and on campus. Cooperation from others, coupled with the fact he likes to get things taken care of right away, alleviate nearly all th$ stress that accompanies the job. , A commonly repeated maintenance problem on campus is plumbing, followed closely by electrical. This comes as no surprise because they are two frequent is sues in any establishment. When asked about the craziest thing he has had to deal with, Lee sprang into an upright sitting position and exclaimed “Well let me tell you about this morning. I received a call from the Roe House to come and check out the drainpipes that have not been work ing properly. When we investigated the problem, we discovered a campus resi dent has been filling the pipes with acorns.” With a twinkle in his eye Lee continued, “We figured we must be dealing with a squirrel or a chipmunk. Now we need to decide how to handle the little rascal. Along those lines, something has been digging holes in the lawns across campus for some time. We finally figured out it is a raccoon looking for grubs. Tell me how we are going to solve that problem?” Not all wildlife is a problem. A doe and two fawn come down onto the football prac tice field nearly every day. “They are pretty to watch and peaceful to have around.” The interview closed with Lee’s vis ible contentment at being able to work on his beloved campus, spend his closing years in Dillon, and continue his involve ment with young people in an instruc tional and mentor role. “I could not have dreamt of a better way to close the circle of my life. I loved my three years as an undergraduate at Western. It was a great place to go to school. My first year of teaching, I had very few problems, due to the excellent foundation I received at Western.” Lee affectionately recalled. 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