County’s IT director is computer system guru

August 27, 2018

Mike Hausler isn’t a standard-issue computer guy.

“I wasn’t a computer nerd back in the day,” he said, recalling that he preferred track and football in his high-school years and thought about being a meteorologist. “I had a lot of friends who were into the old Atari systems. They like to write programs.”

Hausler, 51, the information technology director for Flathead County, found his calling much later in life. In the meantime, he did a lot of different things. He worked as a pawn broker for a time, and was a yard hand at a Bozeman lumber yard. Hausler got his “big break” in the computer industry when he went to work for the Montana Department of Transportation.

Later, a two-year stint with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston was perhaps his most intriguing job. There he worked on projects such as moving physical computer servers to virtual servers. Data coming from the International Space Station - such as exercise experiments and an outer-space sleep study - flowed to the right places, thanks to Hausler’s oversight. He also processed the data for NASA’s twins study conducted on astronaut Mark Kelly and his earthbound identical twin Scott Kelley to determine how spaceflight affects the molecular level of the human body.

“I was a grain of sand in that equation,” he said. “I worked with some amazing people.”

Hausler even got a mention in a publication for his contribution to a study about “anything that could possibly happen on a trip to Mars.

“I brought data in so they could manipulate it,” he said. “It was a good gig.”

But Houston’s urban scene and climate was no match for the Montana lifestyle he and his wife Shannon longed for, so they headed back to the Big Sky State.

Now, Hausler said he has his dream job in his dream locale.

“I think this is what I’ve been working for my entire life,” he said. “I’ve always been attracted to the public sector.”

In a nutshell, the county’s IT department provides a reliable and secure network infrastructure that supports all of the county departments’ data and voice systems.

“We’re a customer-service department,” he explained. “We’re always thinking about how we can make things better, more efficient.”

The IT department provides support for desktop computers, laptops, printers, internet service and all of the myriad components of the county technology network.

The county’s online tax system has evolved as a big bonus for taxpayers. “They can pay their taxes [from home] in their pajamas if they want,” he said. “In today’s world those services are expected.”

Hausler oversees both the IT and Geographical Informations Systems (GIS) departments, a total of 17 employees. And he serves not only as IT director but also the county security officer. It goes without saying that in this day and age, the security of the county’s computer systems is a paramount concern.

Earlier this year the county invested in upgrading the IT department’s cyber security posture. IT is ever-evolving, Hausler noted.

“I can’t say how this will look 20 years from now,” he said.

Montana has been Hausler’s home for much of his life, but he was born in Houston, where his dad, who was in the U.S. Army, was stationed at Fort Hood. The family moved to Helena in the early 1970s, where Hausler graduated from high school.

He married his high-school sweetheart Donna right out of high school. They had three children before going their separate ways 14 years later, but remaining “very good friends.”

Hausler remarried in 2011, and he and Shannon have embraced a lifestyle that includes spending lots of time in the outdoors.

It was Hausler’s work with the state Department of Transportation that introduced him to the computer industry.

“I built work stations, converting old VMS machines, the green screens, to a Windows environment,” he recalled.

Hausler did several jobs for the transportation department. He compiled road reports in the winter that were broadcast over the 550 AM radio frequency.

“That was my voice [on those broadcasts] during those early years,” he said.

Hausler also was the support person for the Montana State Fund help desk for a time.

“That was where the rubber hit the road and I could work with what I knew,” he said. “It was an environment [in which] to learn and grow.”

Hausler eventually earned a computer-science degree through Northern Arizona University’s online program.

He held his state government job until 2010, then did some system and network administration work under contract for a couple of companies in California.

Throughout his career, Montana kept beckoning him, so by the time he was hired by Flathead County he knew this would be job from which he one day would retire.

“I have no intention of ever leaving,” he said with a smile.

Features Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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