I’m a Monday guy. During a career that spanned 36 years, I never understood why other people didn’t share my enthusiasm for Mondays. I enjoyed spending weekends and time off with my wife, children and grandchildren, but come Monday, I was always excited to hit the ground running. I loved my job. Even after I retired 11 years ago, it didn’t take me long to find another “job” to direct my passion toward. It’s another job that I’m equally passionate about. It’s another job that I love.
That job is volunteering my time to serve as a trustee duly elected to represent Zone 5 on the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 Board of Trustees. The position might be unpaid, but since it’s vitally important to the health and well-being of our community, it’s one that I’ve been honored to fulfill since 2013.
I’m often asked, “Why did you want to run for the school board?” My answer to that question is pretty simple: Being a school board member has provided me with an opportunity to pay back into this community that has given so much to me. Maybe it was also the influence of my dad, who was a juvenile probation officer, and my mother, who was a dedicated homemaker. I saw a need to give back to a community I love.
I didn’t plan to spend the majority of my life in Pocatello, Idaho. I grew up on the West Coast near San Diego. I was recruited to play football at Arizona State, but I anticipated that it would be too hot for my taste, so I headed to Bengal Country — sight unseen. When I rounded the corner from Inkom to Pocatello in the Portneuf Gap, my first impression was, “Where are all the trees?”
I joined 36 other recruits from across the country at the invitation of Idaho State University head coach Ed Cavanaugh. My original plan was to play football for four years and then return to California. Like 13 other men from my recruiting class, my positive experiences here, including meeting my wife and starting a family, led me to choose Idaho as my permanent home. I’ve never looked back.
My career was incredibly fulfilling. After graduating from ISU, I started a job in the warehouse at Norman Supply, which eventually became Ferguson Industries. I quickly moved through the ranks, managed a branch of the company in Twin Falls for eight years and closed out my career back in Pocatello as a regional manager. I enjoyed mentoring the individuals who I supervised, and I still enjoy hearing how well they are each doing in their lives and careers. I’ve also enjoyed serving on ISU’s F.A.T. board as treasurer and a volunteer for the 6th District Judicial Court’s C.A.S.A. (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program.
My first campaign for trustee in 2013 was uncontested. In 2017, I ran as an incumbent against one other individual. Due to the nature of the job of a trustee, local school board elections have not been historically competitive. That it is an unpaid position without benefits and often thankless begs the question, “Who would want this job?” I do. Serving on the school board is exactly where I want to be. My passion and my perspective on business are two unique attributes I bring to my current role as trustee.
My approach is to try to think forward and see if we are missing something that we can do better. School boards are charged with making decisions that can sometimes be quite difficult or require sifting through a great deal of information. I am proud to serve on a school board that has prioritized courage and unity to make proactive decisions that are in the best interest of the more than 12,000 learners we serve. Some of the most recent decisions have taken some heat, but they were decisions that needed to be made in the best interest of learning. More recently, decisions have been made that are in the best interest of the health and safety of our learners, our school staff and our community.
Outstanding schools don’t just happen; it takes an exceptional team to get the job done for the learners they serve. We have an exceptional team in District 25. We are not faced with easy decisions, but our Board and our administration is dedicated to working well together because it’s in the best interest of the learners we serve. Our decisions can help a child for their entire life. That’s not something we take lightly.
From my vantage point, the school district delivers a whole system of care for thousands of children that starts with our bus drivers and other district personnel who fulfill critical functions to serve the diverse needs of our learners. When a normally upbeat child gets on the bus off his mark, our bus drivers take notice. Sometimes, it’s a matter of a friendly “hello” or taking notice of just one small individual detail about the child, like the cool color of his shoes, that can redirect his day on a better path. Other times, it’s a red flag alert that the bus driver communicates to the child’s school community resource worker who can then help identify any resources we can provide to help that child better succeed.
We have so much to look forward to as a community, including the build-out of all three high school outdoor athletic facilities over the next five years. I’m also looking forward to the Class of 2021 graduation ceremonies. Graduation is an annual highlight for me, especially last year getting to see families celebrate their graduates’ accomplishments in a celebratory parade.
Over the past 10 months, we have been faced with some of the toughest times and toughest decisions of our lifetimes. The work we’ve done as a board and as a district to address these challenges makes me feel good. I know that my mom and dad are looking down on me and saying, “he’s doing a good thing.”
I’ll keep showing up to make decisions from the heart and for the right reason. And, despite whatever challenges may still lie ahead, I’ll still be a Monday guy.
Dave Mattson is the chair of the Board of Trustees for the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25. Before retiring, Mattson was a regional manager for Ferguson Industrial, where he worked for 36 years. He is a graduate of Idaho State University where he played defensive tackle for the Bengals football team. He has served on the board since 2013.