Forty-seven years ago, in 1972, Dean DeHaven started driving the school bus, continuing a family tradition that stretched back even farther. Within 10 years, he’d taken over as transportation director, still driving bus, planning schedules, managing routes, and cleaning and maintaining the buses for Delwood.

“Some families, I’ve transported three generations,” he said, with a smile. “You can spot them a mile away. You can almost predict how they’re going to grow, because their parents did the same thing.”

This year, DeHaven received the Longevity Award from the Iowa Pupil Transportation Association.

DeHaven thinks carefully about bus drivers’ roles at the forefront of education. 

“You’re the first employee of the school they see every morning,” he said of students. As such, a bus driver can start a student’s day out on the right — or the wrong — foot.

Since bus drivers see students over a period of many years, they may end up spending more time with a student than any other staff member at a school.

DeHaven grew up in Delmar, where his grandfather, Linus Hanrahan, had Hanrahan’s Service Station and was one of the district’s first drivers of motorized buses. DeHaven’s uncle followed in his footsteps.

“You’ve got to love it,” DeHaven said of his longtime career. “It’s a rewarding job, if you’ve got the temperament.”

He added that he could never have had such long-term success without the “support and trust” of the board.

DeHaven planned to retire June 1, but Delwood made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. 

“Winter just isn’t as fun as it used to be,” the 70-year-old DeHaven admitted.

Especially not last winter. 

“We’ve seen it before, but not for so long,” he said. “Most drivers couldn’t find a road to go down.”

He’s rightly proud of the clean, shiny Delwood buses. 

“I look after those as if they’ve been my own,” he said.

Even after all these years, his job continues to bring challenges and surprises. 

“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t,” he said.

The “bus itself” has been the biggest change in DeHaven’s four-plus decades. “Pretty much everything was basic, manual,” he said. “There were not safety features. A padded seat. That’s about it.”

Have the kids changed? 

“Not so much,” DeHaven laughed.