Neil Paulson chose technology over farming
A couple of hard winters on the family dairy farm and Neil Paulson decided to pursue another career.
The epiphany came at a particularly severe moment. "I was running a manure spreader and freezing and I thought there has to be a better way than this," he said during a recent conversation.
So Paulson, who always liked electronics and had left the farm once to pursue a technical career, went back to school at NWTI in New Richmond and got a degree.
"I graduated in 1995 and there was an opening for a technician in the Hudson School District," he said.
He got the job and 18 years later the 62-year-old Paulson is retiring from the school district without any regrets about leaving the manure spreader behind. He still lives on the 118-acre family farm in Clayton and rents out the land. He represents the third generation on the farm.
He was the first person hired in the tech department and therefore a first-hand witness to the explosion in the growth of technology in the school district. It has grown from Paulson as the only employee to a current staff of 10, he said.
"It's been a great opportunity to work with new technology," he said. "The district works hard to keep the technology current."
For 18 years he has been the "go to guy" to trouble-shoot computer problems in various areas. With wireless systems taking over, students bring their own devices now, he said, and keeping the wireless avenue secure and available is a big part of the job.
"The growth of the personal computer has made a big difference since I started in 1995," he said. "The change in technology has been phenomenal."
His retirement plans include tackling a load of projects, at the top of the list... "I have a barn to take down. The wood is 100 years old," he said.
But the month of July is already booked. Paulson and his wife of 35 years, JaLayne, will entertain their daughter, two granddaughters and a grandson due on Memorial Day who will visit from California.
They lost a son a decade ago in a car accident at age 22. "We got a lot of support from the school district then," he said.
Paulson said his great-grandmother was from Amery and headed south until the road ended and that's where the family built the farm in Clayton. "My mother and father encouraged us (he grew up with two brothers and a sister) to get out of farming," he said. Paulson was the last to leave.
Paulson graduated from Clear Lake High School in 1968, worked for a few years then attended tech school in Eau Claire and earned a degree in 1972. There weren't many tech jobs in the area then so he worked for Texas Instruments in Dallas for two years but got homesick and returned to Clayton and tried his hand on the family farm again, he said.
Two very cold winters and a harsh day on the manure spreader finally forced him off the farm.