“Think of your grandchildren. They’re going to appreciate what you do.”
That’s one of LaVerne Paulson’s favorite sayings and one he uses frequently.
Paulson, a long-time Preston resident and active member of the community, officially retired from his position at the Fillmore County Recycling Center on October 6 after working there for 10 years. Before that, he was a teacher at Fillmore Central for 35 years, taught Driver’s Ed for 40 years, and served as an EMT on the Preston Ambulance Service for 20 years.
He also worked at Berwood Hill Inn as a gardener for a few years after hanging up his hat as a teacher.
When Paulson saw advertisement 10 years ago in the paper looking for a replacement for retiree Sandy Benson at the recycling center, he decided to apply. He had retired from teaching a few years before and was looking for something to fill his time beside his gardening job at Berwood Hill Inn. “Why not give it a shot?” he said.
During his 12 hours a week working for the recycling center, Paulson was rarely in his office. He spent time visiting church groups, Kiwanis, schools, the Lions Club, 4-H clubs, and more giving talks and educating people on the importance of recycling and how they could do it. He also drove out to check on the rural recycling containers to see how they were being used, wrote bi-weekly articles for the Fillmore County Journal discussing recycling, answered questions in person and via emails, and wrote grants. The recycling containers at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds and the giant pop bottle shaped containers that can be found at gas stations around the county are all the result of grants that Paulson wrote.
“I really enjoyed this job at the county trying to bring recycling rate up, which we have done,” Paulson said. The original goal was to bring the recycling rate up to 35%, which Paulson said has been met and passed.
Paulson worked hard to bring more recycling services to Fillmore County.
A recent achievement was making it so that plastics labeled as #5, such as yogurt lids, could be recycled.
“We’re trying to keep people from using natural resources when they can reuse something that’s been used before,” Paulson said, adding that it’s important to keep the soil, air, and water as clean as possible. He pointed out how much things have changed since he was a kid, noting that it was safe to burn paper back then, but now, the ink and materials used to make the paper can actually make the smoke toxic and pollute the air.
That means that recycling is that much more important.
One of Paulson’s favorite parts of his job at the recycling center was meeting and working with people to educate them about recycling. “It kind of goes back to when I was teaching, except we’re teaching adults here.”
“As little as possible!” Paulson said when asked what he planned to do with his retirement. He plans to catch up on projects around the house and continue to garden, although he’s cutting back on that, too. He anticipates that most of the traveling he and his wife, who is also a retired teacher, will do, will be to visit their son and his family in Kansas.
Out of the many jobs he’s worked, Paulson’s favorite will always be teaching. “I liked being around the kids and watching them learn,” he said.
Paulson plans to continue to educate people on recycling even though he’s retired. “I’m not going to make a pest of myself, but if I get the chance, I’ll mention something,” he said, smiling.