Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Alan Dias retires after 25 years with Whitefish School District

Whitefish Pilot | June 5, 2024 12:00 AM

After 25 years of taking care of the buildings and the people in the Whitefish School District, maintenance technician Alan Dias retired Apr. 30.

“I made sure everyone around me was taken care of,” Dias said. “As a custodian, that’s actually the definition of the word and I've lived by that. You can ask anybody, that’s my reputation — that I took care of business.”

Although Dias calls himself a jack of all trades and a master of none, his attention to detail and realistic appraisal of his skills made him an extraordinary maintenance technician.

“I have a boiler's license and I was an apprentice plumber before I moved from California. The electrical work — I'm pretty much self-taught,” Dias said. “I took pride in being able to assess a problem and take care of it and know whether I was really able to do it or not. If not, let's call a professional.”

He said he left the school in good hands because the current maintenance staff is exceptional.

“I loved the people. I worked with a lot of great people over the years,” Dias said. “I feel like I had a good reputation. I think I did a good job. I think people appreciated what I did and I was a team player. I was a company man.”

Dias served as the union president for classified employees for several years, a role he said allowed him to work with the administration in order to take care of his co-workers. He garnered respect from all sides and was also a favorite with the students. 

The kids didn’t call him Mr. Dias, they called him Al, and he was known as the volleyball team’s number one fan. He said the kids are what made his job great.

“A lot of people around this town know who I am and know that I took care of (things). I was the guy to call,” Dias said. “I did take care of people for many years and it felt good. It was rewarding.”

DIAS MOVED from Sacramento, California, to Montana in the winter of 1996. He worked as a manager and maintenance man for the Iowa Apartments before taking jobs cleaning grocery stores at night and the post office in the mornings.

His career with the school district began with a substitute custodian position. He worked that job for six years until he was able to step into a position he created, a sports custodian/maintenance man.

As a way to alleviate the problem the district was having with overtime for sporting events, Dias suggested the new job title and description.

“They did the math and said that's a great idea, let's do it,” he said. “I did that for nine years which was great, because I loved being around the kids.”

For the last 10 years, Dias has been a full-time maintenance technician and has been involved with every building renovation and new build.

“Everytime they wanted to rebuild a building, people would come in and go, ‘Look at this place – it looks great. Why do we need a new school?’” Dias said before offering an explanation. “Well, because the custodians and maintenance people worked very hard to keep things beautiful.”

In his early days with the district, Dias worked with a group of custodians and dubbed them the “A-team,” because they kept the falling-apart high school looking beautiful.

“Back then we used to strip and refinish our gym floors ourselves,” he recalled. “We had knowledgeable, hard-working guys that did that stuff.”

CAMPING, FISHING and traveling are on Dias’ mind these days. He says he cannot wait for his wife, Eden, to retire so they can hook up the trailer and take off. She has three years to go before retiring from her job as the activities secretary at the high school.

“We have our travel trailer, we hook it up to the back of the truck and we go places,” he said. “I plan nice, long trips. We’ve seen I don't know how many national parks.”

He has a couple bigger trips in mind, too.

“Our last big trip was to the Azores, an archipelago off the coast of Portugal, where my Dias family came from,” he said. “When I got there I was wondering why they ever left.

“It was beautiful and I want to go back to Portugal and Spain,” he added. “Next summer I want to take an Alaska trip. I've never been there.”