New head custodian Jeff Tolar embraces all that FHC and his new position have to offer


As beloved custodian Homer said his final goodbyes, leaving the place he had served for over 20 years, Jeff Tolar quietly entered the scene.

Armed with a good-natured personality and a strong work ethic, Tolar came well-equipped to serve the FHC community through both his technical skills and his knack for encouraging those around him. Although his journey as a custodian has mostly consisted of working at FHN, he is ready to make a difference at FHC in any way he can.

“[I view my job] as an opportunity to make a positive impact on people around me,” Tolar said, “and to learn more about my job through new equipment and the different attitudes of people.”

Despite the initially intimidating exterior of FHC, Tolar felt at home immediately when students and staff alike extended kindness to him, making his fears subside and feeding his excitement.

“Everyone has been very friendly here,” Tolar said. “It’s been a very warm welcome. [However], it was difficult learning where things were and navigating it all, along with trying to keep up with all of the things that break.”

While he knows the tools and the in and outs of custodian work, getting accustomed to a new building is always a difficult feat. Fortunately, the rest of the custodial staff further encouraged him and stepped in whenever the job was overwhelming.

“Brian, Vicky, and Andy, [the other members of the custodial staff], have been my biggest help here,” Tolar said. “Andy has helped me by coming in at lunch because we’re short-handed around then. Vicky has helped me by showing where new supplies are and the process that they do because I didn’t want to come in and change the system. From what I heard before, the system works great around here, so I wanted to keep that going. I wanted to keep an open line of communication between us, so we can always discuss anything new. Brian has been helpful as far as helping me finding things throughout the building and getting used to the night time activities.”

The best tool that Tolar is equipped with is his new team and their collective excellence. With the addition of Tolar’s widespread knowledge to the team, the custodial staff will be strengthened, as his mastery dates back to high school and has grown ever since then.

Surprisingly though, his original vision for his future did not involve working in schools at all but rather revolved around serving his country through the military.

“[Coming out of high school,] I thought I would end up in the military,” Tolar said. “I was there for a few years. I enjoyed it because I love serving my country, but it wasn’t something that I felt that I wanted to continue on with. I had enough of it, and I realized it wasn’t what I wanted the rest of my life to look like.”

Although the military wasn’t the right thing for him at the time, the training he received in high school ended up preparing him for his future more than he could’ve even imagined at the time.

“When I was in high school, I went to Kent Skill Center [KCTC], and I took a building maintenance class. I didn’t take it for this line of work, but I took it so I could do repairs on my own house. Through that knowledge and my [father-in-law], I came to work in Forest Hills, and everything I learned through Kent Skill Center, I could apply to this job.”

In the end, Tolar’s preparations for everyday life through KCTC resulted in a long-lasting career and nurtured his passion for serving those around him. His experience in the field combined with the newfound reassurance from his father-in-law then led him to where he is now, 29 years later.

“It was my father-in-law who recommended me, and back in a��89, he was the head bus mechanic,” Tolar said. “When I married his daughter and had several part-time jobs that he didn’t approve of, he helped me in the process to get a job in the district and getting my foot in the door. I still think it was all him, but he says that all he did was open the door, and I just had to walk through it.”

Because of the loving nudge that his father-in-law gave him, Tolar moved in the right direction toward working in the FH district. Both the area and the job instantly clicked with him, leaving him with a full heart of gratitude for his father-in-law. The father-in-law’s good insight about Tolar’s skills essentially made all the difference in his son-in-law’s life, and believing in Tolar gave him the chance to impact people’s lives in a subtle way.

Even now, decades later, Tolar’s heart for serving has remained constant, and his work ethic and motivation have not wavered since his transition into this line of work.

“Anyone can bring knowledge to the job, but it’s just a matter of how much you have,” Tolar said. “I have a lot of knowledge about heating and cooling and the mechanics of a building that other people may not have. I also have the drive help out others and be a positive influence. I think that bringing a positive attitude would be the biggest thing I bring to the job.”

The sudden adjustment, while hard, gave Tolar an opportunity to continue doing what he loves, and being in the building, serving as a head custodian is truly where he belongs.

“Every place you go, there are different cultures of a building,” Tolar said. “It’s not necessarily the culture in terms of nationality, but I’m very excited to see more about this building. From the way people have treated me so far, I know it’s going to be amazing.”