Now White is overseeing the Ottawa school district’s facilities and grounds as the district’s new director of operations. He succeeds Richard Smith, who retired in September.
Jeanne Stroh, Ottawa superintendent, told school board members Nov. 11 the district was fortunate to have an operations director with White’s vast experience and said she was pleased to welcome him aboard.
White, who came to Ottawa from Peoria, Ill., said the community has been very welcoming since he and his wife Deborah moved to town. White, 61, started his new duties Oct. 21.
In Peoria, White managed two buildings for URS, a subcontractor of Caterpillar Inc., which served as a data center for Caterpillar’s worldwide operations, he said.
“I was told that if the [data center] went down [with a power loss], it would cost Caterpillar $600,000 for every minute it was down — so no pressure there,” White said, laughing.
A Sacramento, Calif., native, White went to work for the federal government in Lompoc, Calif., then moved to Littleton, Colo., where he turned a community college in Aurora, Colo., into a training facility for the U.S. Justice Department.
He also tackled projects in Leavenworth and in Rochester, Minn., where people describe how long they’ve lived there in winters — not years, he said.
White has numerous years of experience in architectural design and construction management, he said. White operated his own construction company in Las Vegas, he said, completing residential and light commercial projects — from repairs to remodels — in Nevada and California.
“The business was doing well, with a four-month waiting list [of customers],” White said.
A friend recommended White move his business to Peoria, Ill., to do the same type of work there, he said. When the economy “went south,” White said he went to work for a historic hotel in Peoria and then for URS.
White, who enjoys fishing and camping, said the job in Ottawa was appealing because he and his wife wanted to move back to Kansas after living in Leavenworth. White said it gave the couple an opportunity to be closer to their son, Ryan, and their three grandsons in Minneapolis, Kan. White’s daughter, Tobi, also has three sons and lives in Sacramento, he said, and his other two sons, Bryan and Scott, live in Las Vegas and Scottsdale, Ariz.
Every school district has its facility challenges, White said. But, overall, White was impressed with how well Ottawa’s buildings have been maintained, he said.
“The [maintenance] staff has done an excellent job of maintaining the buildings we have,” White said. “The district has a really good preventative maintenance program in place, which can help extend the life of buildings and equipment.”
White also was impressed with the community’s involvement in the school district, he said, citing a recent school district meeting in Peoria where only 10 parents showed up.
“It’s nice to be in a community where everybody wants to be a part of what’s going on in the schools,” he said.