2018-02-22 / Life in Leelanau

MR. FIX-IT

Jack of all trades to cap career at Glen Lake Friday
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


JOE HOBBINS will retire tomorrow from Glen Lake Community Schools after 36 years of service. JOE HOBBINS will retire tomorrow from Glen Lake Community Schools after 36 years of service. Joe Hobbins took work-study to a new level.

As a senior at Glen Lake High School, he wasn’t big on study halls and with a full load of courses completed his graduation requirements well before his fellow members of the Class of 1981.

“Graduation requirements weren’t as stringent as they are today,” said Hobbins, who was still technically a high school senior when tapped by then-superintendent Herb Milkes to work as a second-shift custodian. “I was taking an auto tech program at TBA (Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District). So I worked second shift from 3:30 p.m. to midnight.”

More than 35 years later, he is retiring later this month as buildings/ grounds/transportation supervisor at Glen Lake Community Schools.

How did he go from working nights cleaning in the elementary school to becoming the go-to guy at Glen Lake, responsible for the 180,000-squarefoot facility, 110 acres of grounds and the school’s 14-bus fleet?

It didn’t happen overnight.

With his auto tech experience and another small engines course under his belt, he began working in the bus garage while still in high school under the supervision of Tony Galla.

As time went on, Hobbins gained more certifications and along with that, greater responsibility.

In 1995, he was tapped to take over buildings and grounds after the sudden death of then-department head Lou Alonzi.

A few years later, Hobbins assumed the role of transportation director, taking over for Rich Hargraves who resigned due to health issues.

“Combining the building and grounds and transportation is a model used by a lot of smaller schools,” he said.

Trained and certified, Hobbins has an intimate knowledge with the school’s heating/air conditioning, electrical system and septic system. He also oversees 17 employees which include bus drivers, custodial and maintenance departments.

But he hasn’t always stuck to management. Hobbins was pressed into service after what he called his most difficult time at the school: the sudden death of longtime bus driver Neil McCormack in May 2014.

“Getting the call about Neil was tough,” Hobbins said. “I remember him walking into my office one summer. He wanted to know if the school had any job openings as he was retiring downstate. Neil drove bus for 18 years.

“It was a good fit.”

It’s people like McCormack that Hobbins said has been the best part of his career.

“The people and community we have is outstanding,” he said. “Their value can’t be measured in hours or dollars.”

What can be measured in dollars is the $1.1 million in federal Impact Aid the district receives each year as the result of work done by former Glen Lake business manager and later superintendent Joan Groening.

Hobbins said this was a game-changer for the school district.

“Up until that time our challenge was to do what we could with the smallest amount of money so that our dollars stayed in the classroom,” Hobbins said, adding that he’s been told he’s cheap. “Impact Aid has allowed to do this and more.”

Hobbins doesn’t have specific plans for retirement. However, freedom from the salaried, year-round position will allow him to spend more time with his wife, Renee.

“She kept things going at home,” he said.

Rounding out his family are a college age daughter, Brittany, and younger children Annalea and Brandon, who attend Lake Leelanau St. Mary.

Hobbins was recognized at the Feb. 12 meeting of the Glen Lake Board of Education.

A party for Joe

Glen Lake Community Schools will honor a longtime employee on Friday.

A retirement party will be held for Joe Hobbins, buildings/grounds/transportation supervisor, inside the school media center from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m.

Refreshments will be served.

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