Becoming a mechanic was a natural path for recently retired Randy Hovarter. Growing up on a farm in rural Kendallville, he had to learn how to fix equipment on his own, tinkering and repairing machinery as issues popped up.
This led him to being pushed into a shop position at the local scrap yard at his first job. Eventually, Hovarter found himself on the road as a contractor, helping to fix utility fleets across three states. But when he found himself wanting to stay in one place 15 years ago, fate intervened with an opening here at Noble REMC.
Since then, he’s seen the industry and its machinery change from simple engines to complex systems of electronics, bringing a new challenge to each day — one of his favorite parts of the job.
“From one day to the next, I don’t know what I’m going to be doing, and that’s what’s nice about it,” Hovarter said. “When I started, if you had a good battery and fuel, it would run. Simple as that. Everything was really simple to work on. Now it’s all loaded down with electronics and one little sensor or sending unit can shut the whole thing down.”
Now, after more than 30 years doing such work, he’s ready to give his body, which has taken some wear and tear, some much needed rest … at least for a little while.
Even in retirement, Hovarter still plans to tinker at home, whether it’s on his father’s 1948 tractor or some other old truck he plans to buy, but he’s also looking forward to getting out on the road on vacation.
The first trip he and his wife, Sheila, are planning is to travel out West to Denver and then make a loop of the national parks and other sights, choosing to drive the less-traveled roads.
“Some of the neatest vacations we’ve ever taken, we just pull out the driveway and take off. A lot of times we don’t even get on the interstate and stay on the two-lane state roads and see what you can see,” Hovarter said. “I like to get off the beaten path. You see so much more stuff, and there’s a lot neater people, too.”
It’s that care for people that’s going to leave big shoes to fill. It’s also what he’ll miss most about his time at the co-op — those he’ll leave behind.
But luckily, Hovarter still lives at the rural home he grew up in in Kendallville, so he won’t be a stranger to the garage.
“You work somewhere so long, you get attached. I’m going to miss the people. But I’m not that far away either,” Hovarter said. “They get tired of seeing me, I guess they know to kick me out.”