Andres Montes doesn’t like to brag on his many accomplishments. Instead, HISD Transportation’s Senior Manager of Fleet Operations uses his knowledge of mechanics and personal journey to inspire his employees and students. With many accolades, including over 30 years’ experience in fleet management, numerous certifications and serving as the first Hispanic to hold a senior level management position with HISD Transportation, Montes is committed to service excellence. He talks about his love of mechanics and vehicles, and why he feels it is so important to pay it forward.
You have more than 30 years’ experience in fleet management. What you were doing before you began working at HISD?
I grew up in South Texas out on a farming community working the fields and helping my dad. I graduated from Donna High School (in Donna, Texas), attended TSTC (Texas State Technical College System) and received my certificate. Back then, Houston Lighting and Power used to be the company that is now CenterPoint [Energy]. I got hired there and came to Houston back in 1981.
I [started] at HISD in 2004 as a shop supervisor. At that point, I was not a manager, just a supervisor.
I currently hold three certifications, which are ASE certifications: Master Bus Fleet, Master Truck and Master Automotive. Not everyone can hold at least one, and I have three. It’s something I don’t brag about, but it’s something I always aspired to do because I wanted to show what I could do. I’ve always strived to be the best, and it’s just part of it.
What made you want to get into the fleet industry?
I started off as a mechanic, working on trucks and car and vehicles. It’s just something that interested me since I was young. I don’t know if you remember seeing the old winding clocks, but I would tear them apart to see how they worked. I also would tear lawnmower engines apart to see how they worked, put them back together and get them running again. I enjoy tinkering with vehicles, rebuilding countless cars, and restoring them. I just enjoy the mechanical part of it and it interests me how everything works. I used to tell people I can work on anything that crawls or rolls.
You’ve been in your role as Senior Fleet Manager for about two months. How has the transition been?
It’s been interesting. Interesting in the fact that when I was a shop foreman for seven years, I was running one shop with 25 people, 250 buses and more than 250 vehicles. Now, it’s five shops, over 1,000 buses and over 1,500 vehicles.
That’s a lot!
Well, we’re maintaining one of the top maintenance programs in the country. Making sure everything is done properly [with] all of the repairs, and making sure our buses are safe for the kids is our biggest thing. It’s a challenge.
You’ve made a bit of history here at HISD as the first Hispanic senior fleet operations manager in Transportation. How does that make you feel?
It feels good because I’m always encouraging kids to go to school. As a matter of fact, I teach classes with TASBT—which is Texas Association of School Bus Technicians—throughout the state where we meet at conferences and I’ll teach classes. I teach over engines and electronics. I always try to tell kids and my guys, “Go up. There’s always a higher level educate yourself and learn.” I’m always trying to mentor people. It feels good that I’m here because I’m letting others know that hey? You can get here just like I did. You just have to work hard at it, get educated and do the best you can.
It’s always been about pushing forward. I have grandkids now, and my son is an airplane mechanic. I always tell them, “Strive for the best and do your best. You will be looked at. You may have to work harder because of where you are or your current position, but always do your best.” And I always say go to school.
If any, what one piece of advice would you give to your employees?
Be the best that you can, and always strive to be better than you were yesterday.