Don Foerster, longtime safety director for the City of Huntingburg, Indiana, announced his retirement this summer. He has served as Huntingburg's safety and risk management director for 24 years, the first person to hold the title.
But for Foerster, his retirement is about leaving a job, not the people who became like family.
Foerster’s love of people is what defined his career as a safety director. It’s also what made him so successful and dedicated to his work.
A Love of Helping Others
Don Foerster has long been told that he helps too many people. But to Foerster, there’s no such thing.
Foerster’s love of people motivates him in all aspects of his life. He has long been involved in several community groups in Jasper and Ferdinand (where he lives), particularly groups focused on children.
Foerster helped found the Southern Indiana Junior High Soccer Conference in the 1990s and the Forest Park Soccer Program. He still coaches junior high soccer to this day. He has also been involved as a Little League coach in Jasper and Ferdinand and coached basketball at Ferdinand Elementary and Cedar Crest Intermediate.
Starting In Safety
Foerster described himself as being protective of others, a trait he developed over decades of working in safety and risk management.
At the start of his working life, Foerster worked at furniture companies doing design and inventory. One of them, JOFCO, promoted him to work as a safety director in 1972, and he’s worked in the safety field ever since.
JOFCO was his chance to learn about workplace safety. He brought those skills to the City of Huntingburg in 1995. The mayor at the time, Connie Nass, hired him as the city’s first safety and risk management director after working with him on the Dubois County 911 Advisory Board.
Before Foerster was hired, safety was handled internally by a safety manager in each department. Under Foerster, safety responsibilities involving city employees and facilities were consolidated under one role. This also meant that Foerster was indirectly responsible for safety matters in the larger community.
In addition to his broad safety duties, Foerster was also tasked with managing health care and health insurance for employees, including organizing health fairs and offering free health checks.
But for Foerster, it wasn’t a job. It was a family. When people under his care got sick, he wanted to ensure they got better, and he didn’t ever want to go home knowing that someone else wasn’t at home with their kids because he didn’t do enough to guarantee their safety.
Continuing to Serve the Community
Foerster spent all of July training his replacement, Travis Gentry, and is confident that Gentry will do a great job taking care of the people Foerster views as family.
Foerster remains an active member of the community and will continue to find ways to meet new people. He’s currently involved with the Dubois County Substance Abuse Task Force, the American Red Cross Board, and the Dubois County 911 Advisory Board.
Furthermore, Foerster leaves his job with a staff that’s grown from 55 people to 70, giving the department a greater ability to serve their city. Still, leaving Huntingburg is bittersweet, as Foerster will miss the family he built at work.