By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE-You might say he had her number from the start. When Maggie Ogilvie met Don Mace in 1994, she was a new teacher in the Olathe Schools, and Mace was the payroll coordinator for Montrose County School District Re-1J.
“He actually remembered my employee number,” Ogilvie said, “and those numbers had around 20 digits! Don really found his calling in life. He always took time with every new employee, and he always cared.”
Today, Ogilvie and Mace are married—and Mace is about to retire from Re-1J after almost 30 years on the job. His ability to bring the human touch to a process that is increasingly driven by technology has earned him not only the loyalty of district staffers, but an honor rarely given even to superintendents; there will be a party in honor of Mace in the Montrose High School Cafeteria on April 22, from 4 to 6 p.m.
“Don has worked under six different superintendents,” said Ogilvie, who now teaches at the Delta Opportunity School. “When he started, there were around half as many employees as there are today.”
“Every school is going to bring finger food from their assigned country,” Ogilvie said. “This is highly unusual; there is an employee recognition ceremony at the end of the school year, so for Don to have his own party is pretty unique.”
Pomona Elementary School Academics Coach and a 2015 Montrose Education Foundation Teacher of the Year Jody Hovde is among those who are organizing the celebration for Mace on April 22.
“Don is one of those amazing people,” Hovde said. “If you started with the school district, he was the first person you saw; he helped you get started. If you got a raise, he sent you a sticky note saying ‘congratulations.’ And when you leave the district, he is the last person you see.
“Don is a kind person who never gossips, but just does his job,” Hovde said. “His wisdom and knowledge are beyond compare.”
For Olathe Elementary School Principal Joe Brummitt, also helping to organize the retirement party, the opportunity to say thank you to a longtime co-worker is a gift.
“Don has been the model of customer service,” Brummitt said. “No matter who you were, he made you feel that talking to you and helping you was the most important thing he could be doing at that moment.
“When you work in the schools, you hope to touch a lot of people in positive ways,” he said. “Don worked in the district for 30 years, and he has been amazing. Every employee who ever walked through the doors interacted with Don. He knew your name, and the names of everyone in your family—he really brought the personal touch. It goes to show that you can fill positions, but you cannot replace people.
“Don is a person who cannot be replaced.”
Re-1J Chief Financial Officer Karin Slater noted that Mace’s last official day with the district will be June 9. He will be working to train his replacement until then.
“Don is extremely dedicated, timely, accurate and very professional,” Slater said. “He is always friendly, helpful and giving. Don always makes time for employees and assists them in any way possible. Don also supports the district by attending outside activities, and events.
“Don was nominated for the Above and Beyond Award in September 2014,” she said. “Twenty-eight staff members from Centennial Middle School nominated him for this award. As stated on the nomination form, ‘what was apparent is that no one had a negative word to say about Don and it wasn’t unusual for those asked to feel strongly about the value to us all of this good, honest, and decent man. Don is the quiet, behind the scenes guy that staff trust and has been able to trust for years.’
“We will all miss Don and wish him the best of luck in his retirement,” Slater said.
The public is welcome to attend Mace’s retirement celebration, and those who know him are also collecting funds for travel upon his retirement.