Hes a true public servant
June 28, 2002
It's 2:20 p.m. and Allan Ost is nowhere to be found.
His appointment with a Havre Daily News reporter was at 2, but he had other things to do.
Jim Rice, Havre city shop foreman, said that Ost probably got held up somewhere on the streets.
"That doesn't surprise me," he said. "The job comes first."
The job has come first for Ost day in and day out for the past 29 years. But after today, his last before retiring, he'll have to find something else to do.
Ost, 50, was hired in February of 1973. He didn't like how his job was going at Northern Tire Co., and a friend of his who worked for the city mentioned to him that there was an opening. He applied, and since that day he has worked a wide array of jobs for the community.
Ost said he was looking for a job with some stabiltiy and opportunity for advancement. He found it with the city.
Ost worked his first job as a garbageman, riding on the back end of the old-time trucks.
"We had three guys on each truck and we dumped each individual can," he remembered with a chuckle. "It was good exercise."
Ost moved on to reading water meters after a year. The job was done with two people. The water bills were sent out every two months, so Ost and his partner had to read half the town's meters in one month.
The work kept him busy for two years, before a stint at the Havre landfill. He then moved to the street department, where he worked "pretty much the whole gamut of city operations." That lasted until 1992, when he got back on the garbage trucks for six years. By this time the trucks were automated thankfully, Ost said.
He was appointed general foreman in 1998. Street maintenance is the main focus of his work, he said, and working with a shrinking amount of manpower is sometimes hard to deal with.
When Ost was hired nearly 30 years ago, 32 people worked in the city shop. Since then, the city has grown, but his staff is down to 18.
"The biggest challenge," he said, "is trying to meet taxpayers' requests with the manpower we have. So we are doing more with less."
Doing more with less creates a challenge that he loves to overcome. When asked what his favorite part of the job is, his answer is a quick one.
"I enjoy solving people's problems," he said.
Ost explained that he and his employees are "basically servants of the taxpayers," and that striving to help the citizens is more rewarding than many people would think.
There are things he won't mind abandoning after nearly three decades, though.
"It'll be nice to not be called in the middle of the night," he said.
Ost is on call 24 hours a day, whether it's 4 a.m. or 40 below zero. Another thing he won't miss is what he called the most frightening day of his job, back in 1985.
It was a routine water main break, and Ost was called to fix it. The hole was already open; all he had to do was crawl in and finish the job.
"I was in the hole, making a connection, and the wall caved in on me," he remembered.
Ost was instantly buried, and his co-workers immediately started digging him out as best they could with their bare hands.
"By the time they got my head exposed, I could hear the ambulance coming, so I had to have been down there for a few minutes," he said.
Ost said he was lucky to escape with some minor injuries and a few broken ribs, and only had to miss a week of work. Now less than a day away from his retirement, Ost's future may lay mainly in the past.
He is an active member of the Havre Historic Preservation Commission, something that he sees as a connection to his past, growing up in Havre. He talked about walking in the business district of Havre 40 years ago with his grandpa and remembers how this business and that business have changed places.
The walks with his grandfather probably added to his love for the Havre of old.
"I kind of marveled at all the buildings downtown," he said. "I've seen alot of those buildings dissappear."
Ost, along with his wife, Sue, runs an antique business out of his home, something he has done for the past 16 or 17 years. He figured that it will occupy a chunk of his time.
But besides these things and his church, he isn't sure what else he'll do.
Whatever it is, though, it will be here.
"Havre is my home," Ost said.