What’s the next challenge?

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Albert Lean Butch Harves has had a lifetime of contribution toward technology.

Before 62-year-old Harves worked as the director of technology for the Albert Lea School District, he worked in the data processing department of Streater Inc. and at the technical college in Albert Lea.

Through his job at Streater, he was sent to school at IBM. With his job at the college, he developed the first micro-computer support program in the state, training his students to be able to use and support micro computers — from the first IBM, to other personal computers, to Macintoshes.

Email newsletter signup

After working 14 years at each of these locations, he then worked about 14 years for the school district, retiring as technology director Feb. 1.

“All you have to do is almost anything and technology is involved in one way or the other,” Harves said, talking about the importance of technology.

When he started at the school district in 1996, district leaders were looking for someone to come in and coordinate the computer systems for the schools.

He hired some staff to work with him, and in 1998, Harves said the district was lucky enough to pass a referendum.

From the referendum came the funds needed to build the new high school, but it also included a $4 million technology referendum, which allowed Harves to update all the technology at all the schools in the district.

The high school, for example, was built with nine computer labs, all with state-of-the-art equipment. He said he is proud to have been a part of the planning process for the high school.

“They are still on the leading edge of technology in Albert Lea schools,” he said.

On a day-to-day basis, he would oversee any electronic problems that needed to be fixed throughout the district. He said he, his technicians and network employee managed to make sure there was never a problem that was older than 24 hours.

He also worked with grants and other coordinators around the state to stay on top of technology and to make sure Albert Lea was where it needed to be.

He developed a technology plan to submit to the state every year so that the district would be eligible for federal funding.

“We have a good plan in place, a good technology plan,” Harves said. “The school board has supported technology pretty well all along. They see the importance of our kids knowing how to use technology.”

Age: 62


104 Tamra Lane, Albert Lea


retired director of technology for Albert Lea Area Schools

Family: wife, Jill; daughters Michelle, Jennifer and Amee; grandchildren Anna, Andrew, Jack, Austin and Kate

Interesting fact: Harves loves to play golf. He said he’s not the world’s best golfer, but the sport serves as a release for him.

He said each year, the district installs 250 to 300 computers, clears out computers and then disposes of just as many computers as it took in.

It’s all about how to use technology to better educate the students and how to help them channel their energies into technology in a responsible and appropriate way, he added.

“All of the operations of that fell upon my shoulders, I had to make sure it all succeeded,” he said.

His favorite part about his job with the school district was the people, he said.

“Every single job was hard to leave because of the people — the people around me, it was like family,” Harves said.

Now that he’s retired, Harves said he and his wife, Jill, plan to do some traveling around the country. He’s also working on a few other projects.

He and his wife are working on improving their health, so he gets up every morning and walks, he said.

“We so believe that if we’re going to enjoy our retirement, we’ve got to be healthy,” Harves said. “Now I’ll have time to do some of this stuff, and I’m really trying to concentrate on where I need to be.”

His wife retired last summer as the special education coordinator for the school district.

And just because the couple is retired doesn’t mean they’re not going to be busy.

“I do believe you have to stay active,” he said. “You have to have a reason to get up in the morning.”

He and his wife both have their own laptops and use them to communicate with their families.

“I don’t know what my next challenge is going to be,” he said. “Whether it’s volunteer work, doing something for the community.”

He said he sees a need to help senior citizens who have computers and hopes to put together a way to help them inexpensively.