Throughout the 67 years of his life, Andy Geisert has been dedicated to many things, including his family, his work and a handful of hobbies that keep him smiling as he maneuvers through being a senior citizen.
However, another thing that gives him extreme pleasure is being able to help children — specifically students within the St. Clair R-XIII School District.
Geisert is a two-term R-XIII board of education member and also serves St. Clair’s two elementary schools as a WatchDOG. And he is a firm believer of the school district’s mission to “provide exemplary and lifelong learning opportunities today in preparation for tomorrow.”
“I want what’s best for our kids,” Geisert said. “There are so many things to be involved in, but it’s all about them. I try to support our district and our students as best I can because it’s important to do so.
“As a school board member, I represent them. And I represent the people in the district who elected me. It’s important we work to make sure our kids are getting the best possible education.”
As a WatchDOG, Geisert visits both Edgar Murray and St. Clair Elementary schools at least once a month and spends a full day with the students.
WatchDOGS (Dads Of Great Students) is a program to supply male involvement in the school setting and is a parenting initiative of the National Center for Fathering. The program began in a single school in 1998 and since has grown to a national program.
St. Clair R-XIII has used the program for several years.
Studies by the U.S. Department of Education have demonstrated that a positive adult male role model will have a uniquely positive impact on the development and educational success of a child. Therefore, DOE has identified the WatchDOGS program as an effective way to increase male involvement in the nation’s schools.
“I enjoy spending time with the kids and being there for them,” Geisert said. “It’s a little easier for me to be there because I’m retired, but I still want to be there.”
Geisert said he will do whatever is needed when he is at the schools, including just visiting with and spending time with the youngsters.
During a recent visit to Edgar Murray, Geisert ate lunch with some students and listened to some classroom presentations.
“It is all about the kids,” he said.
Geisert also takes his role as a school board member seriously. Besides attending board meetings and helping make key district decisions through the year, he also attends a plethora of activities and events.
On any given day, he may be seen at an academic awards program, a concert, a sporting event or just visiting one of the schools in the district.
“I go to as many things as I can, but so do the other board members,” he said. “It’s important for us to be seen and to let people know we care and that we’re there for them.
“I really enjoy it.”
And, of course, all school board “work” is volunteer. There is no compensation.
Through the R-XIII board of education, Geisert also is involved with a couple of state groups. He is on the Missouri School Boards Association Leadership and School Resource committees. He represents Region 12.
“As our mission statement reads, we have to remember that our children are our future,” he said. “We need to take care of them and make sure they’re pointed in the right direction.”
Outside of the school district, Geisert is on Franklin County’s Board of Zoning Adjustment. He also used to be a member of St. Clair’s Rotary organization.
When Geisert is not at a school or school-related event, he often spends time in his basement with his hobbies.
He is an avid model railroad fan and collects hat or lapel pins and antique cast iron mechanical banks. He also enjoys fishing.
His train hobby started when Geisert was a youngster.
“Every year my brother and I would go through the JC Penney, Montgomery Ward and Sears Christmas catalogs and pick out the stuff we wanted,” he said. “We’d look through those and pick out train stuff.”
He said he always has collected and used Lionel “O” scale trains.
He said his brother and he built their own railroad designs as kids.
As Geisert matured, however, he said the hobby kind of went by the wayside. But when he became an adult and his wife’s uncle died, he inherited his train set, which also was Lionel “O” scale.
The hobby blossomed from there.
“When we built our house in 2002, I took over the basement,” Geisert said about his most expensive hobby.
He said over the years since then, he has built four layouts. He has about 15 different engines, 200 cars and multiple extras.
“I have all kinds of accessories,” he said. “I have train stuff all over the basement.”
Geisert said he still spends “a lot of time” with his trains, and every year he tries to make his layouts a little different.
He said three of his four grandchildren are “fascinated” with the hobby.
His favorites are the “legacy” trains. He also said he owns about 50 “billboard” cars that feature product advertising on the side, such as for Rice Krispies, Ruffles, Sunmaid Raisins, different beers and others.
“That just may be my favorite part of the collection,” he said.
Geisert is quick to point out, however, that he doesn’t consider himself a collector.
“I like to run everything I have,” he said. “I put my train stuff to good use.”
As far as the hat and lapel pins, Geisert said he has about 5,000 of them and he continues to look for more.
“I have a lot of fun with those,” he said. “And, they’re a lot cheaper than trains.”
Geisert has several dozen cast iron mechanical banks as well.
As far as fishing, “I do it when I can,” he said.
Geisert said he used to fish every week. He usually drops his line in local waters, although he has fished in Canada.
He said he has earned several Master Wrangler awards through the Missouri Conservation Department.
His largest fish ever was a 25-pound blue catfish.
Geisert was born in Washington in 1946 to Ben and Janet Geisert. He has three siblings, including his younger train buddy brother, D. John.
He attended South Point Grade School and graduated from Washington High School in 1964.
After graduation, he enrolled at the University of Missouri in Columbia. During the summer of 1965, he did commercial combining work from Oklahoma to Montana.
“We brought in wheat and other crops all summer,” he said.
When he returned, however, he had a draft notice.
In November 1965, he became a U.S. Marine. He served for two years and was stationed in San Diego, where he worked in motor transportation.
Shortly after he arrived home, he got engaged to his wife, Diane. They married in February 1968.
“She lived in St. Clair all her life,” Geisert said. “We went through 4-H together.”
The couple has two boys — Chris, born in 1969, and Tim, born in 1973, and the four grandchildren.
Also upon his return from military service, he was employed by the Missouri Highway Patrol as a commercial vehicle inspector.
“I worked the St. Clair weigh scales for 17 years,” he said.
He then was promoted to a supervisor position in Barnhart and spent the next 10 years there. Following that, he worked at Troop C headquarters for three years until his retirement in 1998. In 1997, he became a chief commercial vehicle inspector that allowed him to carry a sidearm.
“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to work for the highway patrol,” he said, adding that his dream was to be a patrolman, but he couldn’t “because I had glasses.
“But I had a good career there,” he said.
He said he also was an instructor with brakes being his specialty.
“There always was ‘brake’ time in my class,” he said with a smile.
He worked for the patrol for 30 years.
After his retirement there, his working days were not over, however. Geisert got a job as what he called “the safety man” for a trucking company in St. Louis.
In 2002 Geisert then worked for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher. In 2004, he became a maintenance worker in the St. Clair school district.
He held that job until he was elected to the school board in April 2008.
When he was elected to the board of education, Geisert said he followed a long line of family members who served in that capacity. In fact, his wife was a member of the St. Clair school board until 2006. She first earned a spot there in 1997.
Geisert’s parents were on the Washington school board as were his grandmother, brother and other family members.
“It was just kind of logical for me also to serve on a school board,” he said. “I guess you could say public schools are in my blood.”