Like the handful who went before her in 2010, Maxine Mougeot told School Transportation News in December that the industry remains near and dear to her heart even after retiring from the Montana Office of Public Instruction, where she worked for the past 25 years.
"I love these guys, every single one of you and all of the state directors and all of the people I've met," she
"You hear it over and over when people leave, but it's really an awesome place to be."
stepped down as the state's full time transportation director, a position she
assumed in 2001 after Gordy Conn took an administrator position elsewhere at OPI
And like many in the industry, Mougeot
wore multiple hats as a safety specialist and financial specialist.
She actually started at OPI as a federal programs accountant and then, three years later, transitioned to special education data management.
efforts paid off last year as the Montana Association for Pupil Transportation
its "Transportation Person of the Year" for 2010.
Mougeot also planned, coordinated and directed the state's transportation aid funding program and collected and analyzed data used to determined the eligibility of more than 470 elementary and high school districts statewide for some $24 million each year.
This program includes bus inspections, routes and driver qualifications.
also reported fiscal and non-fiscal program information to the U.S. Department of Education
and the Montana state legislature.
Not bad for a woman who dropped out of high school at 17 to raise a family with husband Gary (pictured, above, with Maxine
at a recent Montana Grizzlies football game).
But nothing could stop Mougeot
from later earning her
GED decades later following odd jobs that included being an eyeglass welder for an optometrist's office and working at a welding shop owned by her
husband as a bookkeeper, receptionist, bill collector and, that's right a welder.
At one time, Mougeot
could weld a plow plate on a snow plow.
always knew she
had a higher calling.
"My mother always told me that I would never be anything without an education, so I always had that in the back of my mind," Mougeot
While working for the optometrist, a co-worker, the wife of then-state superintendent told Mougeot about a vacant accounting clerk position at OPI.
applied and soon got the job.
way up the ranks from accounting technician to accounting specialist to data and research manager for the state special education director.
When Conn left the state director of transportation office in 2001, Mougeot
felt it was her calling, especially as the other employees had become her good friends dating back to her days working with the transportation folks on federal programs.
"I hope I'm not done yet [with pupil transportation]," added Mougeot, who also served as regional director west for NASDPTS the past several years.