Even though Gary Bengtson enjoys working with spreadsheets and crunching numbers, after 32 years working as director of business affairs for Carroll Community School District, he can firmly say that he will miss the people and lighthearted work environment the most.
For Bengtson, every day at his job differed from the last. Whether he was working with the school board or writing reports for the state, Bengtson said the only consistency in his day to day was always working with a variety of people.
Bengtson’s background in administration comes from working with Region XII Council of Governments. As the director of business affairs for the school district, Bengtson’s day-to-day work involved accounting and oversight of all federal and state programs. Bengtson also negotiated with the district’s two unions, Carroll Education Association, made up of teachers, and Carroll Education Support Association, made up of bus drivers and teacher associates.
“I really enjoyed working for the school,” Bengtson said. “Early on, one of the things that drew me to the school was having kids in the system. When you work for the school, you really know what is going on behind the scenes.”
Bengtson intended on retiring a year prior, but with little to do in a quarantined retirement, he stayed another year and is happy he did. Originally born in Ames, Bengtson grew up in Ankeny, where his dad was a high school teacher who eventually went on to work in administration for Des Moines Area Community College. Bengtson’s life story is rooted in hard work. He worked throughout high school putting bikes together for JCPenny to pay for tuition.
Bengtson attended DMACC for two years before transferring to Iowa State University. Bengtson said he didn’t necessarily have the typical college experience because he continued to live in Ankeny so he could work.
In college, Bengtson worked full-time at a restaurant, where he met his wife Candy — she was the waitress, he was the cook. After three years of working together, the two married and have been together for 43 years now. Bengtson and Candy have three children: Justin Bengtson of West Des Moines and Brock Bengtson of Houston, Texas, both of whom work in insurance, and Kendra Haluska of Solon, Iowa, who is a stay-at-home mom.
When the Bengtsons were deciding where to settle down, Bengtson said Iowa was the state for them, and Carroll had always attracted him as a good place to live. Bengtson said that when he grew up in Ankeny, it was nowhere near as developed as it is today, and Carroll struck him as different.
“Carroll always seemed so independent,” Bengtson said. “They had about everything you need right here in the community, and that was really different from what I was used to.”
To his predecessor, Bengtson offers one piece of advice: have patience, something he said was a challenge at times.
“Sometimes you have to patience, because you are dealing with local folks but you are also dealing with state and federal folks as well, and sometimes it takes a little patience,” Bengtson said.
After living in Carroll for more than 40 years now, Bengtson said that while things in Carroll have changed some, it is still his home. He and Candy have lived on an acreage in Carroll for 30 years now.
The Bengtsons also spend their days with their four grandchildren: Jerzey, 13, Jace, 9, Jett, 6, and Jordi, 2. The oldest kids are heavily involved in sports. In retirement, Bengtson plans to continue visiting all the major league baseball parks in the country. So far he and his sons already have been to half. Bengtson said his top four favorite parks have to be Pittsburgh, Boston, Los Angeles and San Diego.