If you look up the definition of public servant, Gus Byrom’s name should be the proper noun listed. For the last 33 years, Gus has made a career out of helping Montanans. As an outreach specialist at the Montana Department of Commerce’s Community Development Division, Gus’ name is often more recognizable than the programs he helps communities, tribes and individuals navigate.
This year, Gus Byrom was nominated by three of his colleagues and awarded the 2017 Governor’s Award for Excellence.
In each of his three nominations, the same words were used to describe just why Gus is deserving of this honor: committed, dedicated, kind.
There may be no better project to illustrate this steadfast dedication to his work than the Crow Agency and Lodge Grass wastewater project, which began in 2007, often stalled because of overlapping jurisdictions, financial difficulties, and a catastrophic flood.
“In gathering the dissimilar, Gus listened, and found common ground: access to clean water is a fundamental need for all people,” colleague Heather Sobrepena-George wrote. “With that goal in mind Gus teased out incremental sources of funding to assist the Town as needed: technical and financial assistance to get finances in order; job training for the Town Clerk, Mayor and commissioners; physical assessment of the water and sewer lines; development of community planning documents; technical surveys of existing wastewater cells; architectural and engineering services for site development, and grant writers to put together complex and competitive funding applications. For every problem presented, Gus found not just an answer, but a resource.”
After a decade of monthly project calls, and a simple resolve to move forward, the Lodge Grass wastewater system upgrade is now underway.
“This project was woven together by Gus’ commitment and kindness,” Sobrepena-George said.
But for Gus, it’s all just part of the job.
“Sure, some things might take 10-20 years [to complete], but you’ve got to start somewhere,” Byrom said. “What I’ve always loved is working with people. There’s great joy [in this work].”
Gus’ desk is covered in binders, file folders and notes about current projects. Sitting on top of one of his stacks is a white binder which includes a daily to-do list and inspiration from a few famous public servants like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Gus points to one of the quotes typed out in his white binder, “Do not ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up!”
Before joining the Montana Department of Commerce in 1986, Gus worked as a planner in Lewis and Clark County and the city of Helena. He said he doesn’t yet have plans to retire, mostly Gus said, because there are plenty of projects to complete and towns to assist.
“Gus's patience is indomitable and he is a consistent source of knowledge, encouragement, and helpfulness,” colleague Stacey Zyliak wrote. “Someone broke the mold when they created Gus Byrom.”