Davis School District Superintendent Richard Kendell still recalls his first day on the job, when a tall man in a hat, straight out of "Crocodile Dundee," approached him and said, "And a bodacious good morning to you, Superintendent Kendell."
The scene was trademark Herb Jensen - resident philosopher, cheerleader, green thumb, jack-of-all-trades and head custodian at the school district's administration building. For Jensen, no matter how many things go wrong, his positive attitude always prompts him to say his day is "outstanding."Jensen says he spends 60 hours a week - 20 without pay - at his job keeping the building ready for a full slate of meetings, grooming the flower beds and lawns and putting up a seasonal showcase in the building's main lobby. Each summer he has purchased, out of his own pocket, hundreds of flowers and planted them around the administration building.
"We only pass through here once and we should stop and smell the flowers while we can," he said.
His seasonal displays have also become legendary around school district offices. This Christmas, Jensen assembled an aging photograph of his grandmother, his uncle's old cook stove from a mining operation in Farmington Canyon, a pair of wooden skis, an antique vacuum, a keg still half-full of some forgotten brew and a Christmas tree to lend the cold marble lobby some holiday cheer. He does all of the work alone, working nights or on weekends.
"By changing the seasons it sets the tone for the people who work here. It sets the mode," Jensen said.
Jensen, a former salesman, gets many of the props he uses for seasonal displays from a vast collection of farm machinery and other "stuff" he keeps at his home on Fourth North in Farmington. Passers-by often stop and take a closer look at his "flower bed" complete with an antique bed frame, Oscar the Pig or outdoor decorations around Christmas.
It's not only the atmosphere he creates with his unending collection of Americana, it is his wry wit and homespun philosophy that keeps district employees and school board members on their toes. At a recent meeting during which the school board honored him for his service he was asked to say a few words. He quickly declined, saying the suit he was wearing was a rental and he had to return it. No one could think of a comeback before he was out the board room door.
"I have been in the private sector and here it is a lot more family-oriented. The district office is a second home for a lot of people. Education requires a team effort and is often frustrating. We get them happy," Jensen said.
Among his quips of the daily routine are "Bodacious is the word for that!" and "I almost jumped through my apex!" He said too many people live in the fast lane; more need to return to the basics of simple living, a good attitude and hard work.
That's the philosophy he takes with him to work at the school administration building.
"Whatever it takes to do the job, it is taken care of. It goes with the territory," he said.