Rick Tadus, driving the future
Born in New Mexico but raised in Rifle, Rick Tadus has been chauffeuring the youth of the Roaring Fork Valley as a school bus driver for 23 years.
His father was a jewelry repairman, so out of high school Tadus went on to the Kansas City School of Watchmaking to help out with the family business. That involved a move back to Raton, New Mexico, in the early ’70s.
Before the move, Tadus met his wife, Marsha, in 1971.
“We actually met when I was umpiring a softball game and she was playing,” Tadus said. “She was born and raised in Rifle.”
“I promised (Marsha) that we would always move back to Glenwood,” Tadus said, which they did in 1985.
After working various jobs, Tadus eventually opened All Valley Pest Control in 1996. Looking for some extra income, he started driving a bus for the Roaring Fork School District in 1997.
“I was good friends with Carol Burns, who at the time who was a driver trainer for the district. She approached me about it and since I had driven a bus before, it wasn’t that big of a deal,” he said.
Tadus worked for the Silt and New Castle Recreation Program in 1971 and drove kids to and from Glenwood for swim lessons and baseball games.
“I’ve always liked kids, so that helped me make that decision. I wasn’t afraid to be around kids,” he said.
The smiles, hellos and see-you-tomorrows from the kids show that they enjoy Tadus, also.
“You try not to get attached, but you become friends with them, especially when you have the elementary school kids. I have young adults now who have young families of their own that I see at Strawberry Days, and they still remember me from when I was driving them to school, so that’s rewarding,” Tadus said.
Tadus predicts within the next five years or so he will be driving the kids of the kids he drove to school many years ago.
Driving a bus while also keeping track of 40 to 60 students is no small task. Tadus’ head is on a constant swivel between watching the road and checking on the kids in his rearview mirror.
“I get along with 99% of the students. The school district has a write-up system for any kids that misbehave on the bus,” Tadus said. “This is my 23rd year and I’ve written up less than 10 kids”
Tadus drives one of two bus routes that go up Four Mile Road each morning and afternoon.
“I love my route up Four Mile. I like going up there every morning not knowing what we are going to see, from deer to elk to bear or moose,” he said. “The elementary school kids get pretty enthused, especially when we see a bear.”
Tadus has worn multiple hats for the school district, including being a driver trainer for the new guys, which he admitted was his favorite role.
Jared Rains, who is the transportation director for the Roaring Fork Schools, was one of the lucky ones who was trained under Tadus, because he enjoyed teaching the new guys how to drive safely.
“Rick taught me how to drive a school bus in 2016; he had my job at that time,” Rains said. “I continue to lean on him for advice, guidance and insight.”
“He is a regular sounding board for many of our drivers, myself, my staff and the district executive team regarding transportation issues,” Rains added.
Aside from the kids and his love for driving, Tadus thoroughly enjoys the people he works with.
“Just a great bunch of people. … We all have a common goal of student safety. It’s all about getting them home to school and school to home safely,” he said.
Now retired from his business, Tadus continues driving as a way to get out and about in the mornings.
“I’m a morning person, so I’m up. And now that I’m retired, it gives me something to do to occupy my time. Plus, I still enjoy the kids,” he said. “There are times when we tell jokes and we visit. I just really enjoy it.”
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The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is taking the lead in trying to close a gaping hole in the investigation of crimes in the upper Roaring Fork Valley by purchasing license plate-reading cameras likely to be used at the chokepoint entry and exits to Aspen.