Pogue to retire after 36 years of service in Pantherland
By SHELLY WILKISON
When he started to work more than three decades ago, the Liberty Hill school district had three push mowers and a worn-out tractor with a four-foot shredder to take care of its 40 acres and two campuses.
Liberty Hill was a very different place at a much simpler time. And for Andy Pogue, it was the only place he wanted to be.
In 1981, Pogue was hired to do some electrical work as part of a construction project to add four classrooms onto Liberty Hill Elementary School. He also drove a school bus, and enjoyed being around the children so much that he kept the same route for 10 years until he was named Director of the school district’s facilities and maintenance department in 1991.
Later this month, Pogue is retiring from a job that he has enjoyed going to every day for 36 years.
Pogue, who turns 61 this month, said he expects it will be difficult to learn how to be unemployed. His retirement will mark the first time since he was age 17 that he has been without a job.
“I think it will be hard to get use to not having to get up at 6:00 each morning. The first week off, I guess I’ll just try to get used to not having a job,” he said.
He said his wife, Elaine Pogue, retired in 2003 from LHISD as an elementary teacher. The couple met and married while working for the school district. While admittedly, retirement will be an adjustment for them both, Pogue said they are looking forward to traveling and spending more time with grandchildren.
Pogue leaves behind 10 team members in the LHISD Facilities and Maintenance Department whom he will dearly miss, he said. In addition to his team, district administrators say it will be hard to say goodbye to Pogue.
“You have to smile when you think about Andy,” said Superintendent Rob Hart. “He is always up beat and positive, is fun to work with, and has been a pillar in the district.”
Hart said Pogue’s answer to any request is “we’ll do.” In fact, the response is so common that Hart said he affectionately nicknamed him “We’ll do Pogue”.
“He is a steady, solid, good man who has been dedicated to the district,” Hart added.
Pogue said he feels an enormous amount of pride having worked for the school district. He was born and raised in Liberty Hill and attended Liberty Hill schools through the eighth grade. LHISD lost its accreditation as Pogue started to high school, so like many others, he attended high school in Leander where he graduated in 1974.
“Even in high school, I thought it would be great to graduate and just go back to be part of Liberty Hill ISD,” Pogue said.
“I can remember as a youngster when the bus would come by our house that had Liberty Hill ISD on it. I thought, ‘one of these days I’d like to be a bus driver’,” he said.
Pogue drove a bus for LHISD 10 years and was assigned the same route. He started before daylight driving north on US Highway 183 to the Pilot’s Knob area, then back toward Reunion Ranch. When school was dismissed, he would follow the same route returning the precious cargo.
“It was good to be around the kids every morning when they were just waking up. They were good kids,” he said. “In the afternoon, they could get kind of rowdy, but they were good kids.”
As a Liberty Hill native, Pogue said his work ethic has been driven by hometown pride.
“Keeping the grounds nice and looking good is about being proud of our community and our schools,” he said.
Pogue said he realizes his experience in Liberty Hill is uncommon as the community experiences rapid growth, and he is proud to say that he has spent his life in the community where he was born and raised, and then raised his own family here.
“There’s a lot of pride in that for me,” he said. “I never wanted to leave or go to another job. Through the different administrators we’ve had, it’s just been a joy to be in this position. It’s just been great each day to be part of the community I grew up in.”
Although he supervises a staff of 10 who daily keep up with the grounds at every campus, in addition to providing general maintenance, lighting, heating and air conditioning work for all buildings, Pogue considers himself a member of the team passing along any credit for good work to co-workers and district administrators.
“The administration has provided the money and the equipment for us to be able to do our job. They have seen the value in the investment,” he said, noting that LHISD has come a long way from the push mowers of 36 years ago.
Today, the district’s maintenance department has six 60-inch riding mowers, an 11-foot batwing mower for the high school, a 60hp John Deere tractor with a 50-foot batwing shredder and two Gators.
“There’s no pushing anymore. We just ride,” he said.
The department also takes care of small construction projects including building and removing walls, plumbing repairs, maintaining and repairing HVAC, lighting and more. Hart said Pogue has built a very skilled and dependable staff through the years that has served the school district well, and saved taxpayers money.
During his tenure, LHISD has grown from 40 acres and two campuses to five campuses and a central administration building, and multiple athletic facilities. In total, 829,000 square feet of facilities to maintain. And in August 2017, the district’s sixth school opens at Rancho Sienna bringing an additional 100,000 square feet, 10 miles away from the maintenance headquarters.
Through the growth, administrators say Pogue has kept up with the challenge, always with a positive attitude.
Hart recalled Pogue’s involvement in the construction of the high school, which opened to students in 2013.
As a native of Liberty Hill, Pogue realized the enormity of the impact the new campus would have on the community’s future, Hart said.
“He was aware of the impact it was going to have on the community,” Hart said. “He played a big role in that. He had the respect of the builders and contractors.”
Pogue, always humble about his contribution to the district’s success, said he was simply part of the team that consulted with architects and contractors through the years on multiple building projects.
Pogue said he still uses a clipboard and pencil to keep track of all of the department’s project. He said he chose this year to retire because he is wary of the looming changes that will come with new technology.
“We have water heaters now with computer boards in them that show you what’s wrong with the system,” he said. “We use to just have thermostats and heating elements, now computer boards show you what’s wrong. I’m not quite ready for all that.
“A guy told me 15 years ago that I’d know when it was time to go,” he recalled. “I understand now what he was talking about. It’s just the right time.
“I will miss the staff we work with the most,” he said. “I really want to praise them because they do such a great job.”
While Pogue’s contributions to the school district have been far-reaching, he has also played an active role in the community. As a volunteer coach for his children’s community basketball and youth league baseball teams, he stepped up and volunteered years ago to serve as president in both of those organizations.
Pogue also was a volunteer firefighter in Liberty Hill from 1976-1985. And from 2006-2008, he served on the Board of Directors for the Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp. before the City of Liberty Hill took over the water system.
“LHISD is going to have some very big shoes to fill,” said Melanie Bowman, principal at Liberty Hill Elementary School. “Andy Pogue has been such an incredible asset to our district.”
Liberty Hill Intermediate School Principal Kathy Major said Pogue was one of the first staff members she met when she came to Liberty Hill, and has always been there to help when she needed it.
“The time I appreciated most is 10 years ago when my husband was critically injured from a fall,” she recalled. “Andy checked on me every day – he did it subtly, always with a list of jobs to check on before school started, but always asking about my husband, always asking about what we needed, always reminding me what his phone number was. He was there like a rock. I think that is what Andy Pogue has been for this district – one of the unshakable pillars that has kept us going. He is a rock, a man of integrity, a trusted friend.”
Junior High Principal Annette Coe agreed.
“Andy is and always has been the ‘calm in the storm’. I don’t care if I was calling him because of snakes in the building, water flooding under the doors and running down the walls, toilets spraying water, doors that wouldn’t lock at 4 p.m. on a Friday – and all of these happened over the years – he always very calmly said, ‘I’ll take care of that Mrs. Coe’ and he did take care of it,” Coe said.
LHISD Human Resources Director Bobby Mabry, who previously served as high school principal, called Pogue “a corner stone of the Panther family.”
“He will be greatly missed,” Mabry said. “I hated to have to bother him after hours or on a weekend when there was a facility issue. He would always say without hesitation, ‘I will take care of it’ and he always did.”
“A true blessing to us all is the only way I can describe Andy Pogue,” said Bill Burden Elementary Principal Terrie Chambers. “He will be missed, and keep his place among the greats that have served faithfully in LHISD.”
Perhaps one of the most loyal Panther fans, Pogue said he has mixed emotions about leaving his post. He said he will especially miss working with staff preparing his beloved Panther Stadium for Friday night football games. He admits it will be strange, almost uncomfortable, to be seated as a spectator.
“I can honestly say I have really enjoyed coming to work each day,” Pogue said.