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2018

Richard Kasprzak, #1603 

Stockkeeper
Posted by Christina McHenry | Monday, May 07, 2018 12:02:00 PM

Rich Kasprzak

When Richard Kasprzak visited the unemployment office for help finding a job, the woman he met threw up her hands and declared the then 23-year-old needed to go back to school. Instead of taking that advice, he left the office, immediately found a payphone and called the Metropolitan Transit Commission to ask about applying for a job as a part-time bus operator. It wasn’t quite what he'd had in mind but the job had been recommended by a longtime neighbor who happened to know a thing about transit: Fred T. Heywood, who led the agency’s first service development department and would later become the namesake for a new Minneapolis garage and office. Kasprzak would spend the next decade as a bus operator and another 23 years in bus maintenance and material management. By the end of his career, Kasprzak estimated he’d held more than 100 different assignments, the kind of variety that kept him engaged throughout his three decades in transit.

As a bus operator, Kasprzak worked at every garage except for Ruter and spent most of his time at South and old Snelling, where he could take the bus to and from work. While he had to sacrifice many of his nights and weekends, Kasprzak enjoyed driving and never had any accidents. The longer he stayed, though, the more he realized he needed to find a new challenge. He considered starting a new career in electronics or real estate but ultimately decided to go back to school and pursue a career in bus maintenance. He spent three years going to school full time and acquiring skills as a cleaner and helper. He enjoyed the work, but as graduation approached he was offered a job as a stockkeeper. The job had long intrigued him, and he had some previous delivery experience, so he took the gig.

As a stockkeeper, Kasprzak spent time at each garage and in a variety of roles. He enjoyed the constant changes and the opportunity to meet and work with people across the organization. One of his favorite jobs was as a truck driver, delivering parts to work locations throughout the Twin Cities. “You’d stop by, say hello, then be back on the road,” he said. “It made the day go by pretty quickly.” Kasprzak also enjoyed the challenge of keeping the stockroom organized and earned a reputation for being an “idea guy” who was always eager to make suggestions. He helped design and introduce a recognition program for material management employees and created a checklist that helped improve cycle counts.  

In retirement, Kasprzak planned to spend more time with his son and grandchildren, old friends, biking and traveling. “I’m glad I was able to work here so long,” he said at his retirement. “We are all very lucky to have such good, stable jobs.”

2018

Patrick Brown, #224 

Transit Supervisor
Posted by Christina McHenry | Monday, May 07, 2018 12:00:00 PM

Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown didn’t think he wanted a job that involved a lot of public interaction. But with a six-month-old child and another on the way, he needed to find work that would allow him to support his growing family. A hiring sign hanging on the side of the old Northside Garage gave him the idea of applying for a job as a bus operator. He reported to the old Snelling Garage, passed the hiring test and was immediately thrown into a class with other new hires. Shortly after that, he began working out of Shingle Creek Garage (now the Martin J. Ruter Garage). And so began what would become a 38-year career in transit.

Brown spent more than seven years as a bus operator, working the extraboard at the Heywood and Nicollet garages. He liked the job but started to feel like he needed something more. “I saw another operator who was a week behind me in seniority with a supervisor badge and that’s what kind of lit the fuse for me,” Brown said. “I had to find out where the job board was.” In 1987, Brown’s ambitions led to a new job as a Transit Supervisor.

Initially, Brown split his time between answering calls in the Transit Control Center and managing service out on the street. When those roles were divided into separate jobs, Brown began spending all his time on the road. (The first car he was assigned was a Chevy Citation.) It was, he said, an easy choice. “Nobody ever calls the Control Center to say, ‘Have a nice day,’” Brown said. “There’s always a problem.” As a supervisor, Brown watched to see how closely buses were following their schedules, managed planned and emergency detours, responded to accidents and got back to customers who had questions or concerns. For years, his days began at 4 a.m., an hour before any other Minneapolis supervisors. With the city to himself, his primary responsibility was to make sure that a group of early-morning buses met as scheduled. Brown said he enjoyed the relative freedom that came with the job and serving a community he knew well: Brown often found himself in Northeast Minneapolis, near his boyhood home and where he later lived as an adult. “I live right in the middle of my district so, to a degree, I’d go to work and then go right back home,” he said. 

While there was a degree of routine, Brown found himself in plenty of unique situations. In one instance, he helped line up buses that were used to provide a layer of protection as the Minneapolis Fed moved cash into its new building on Hennepin Avenue. Presidential visits led to interactions with the Secret Service. He worked through two Super Bowls and two World Series. And he was tapped to be the driver for what was essentially the Metro Transit Police Department’s first squad car, carrying police to and from a St. Louis Park roller rink where teenagers gathered. “There was such a variety of things,” Brown said. “You’d come to work and never really know what was going to come over the radio.”

Brown retired in April 2018 with plans to spend his retirement traveling, fishing and enjoying his family, including his wife, three sons and six grandchildren.

2018

David Lefebvre, #458 

Facilities Technician
Posted by Christina McHenry | Wednesday, April 11, 2018 1:41:00 PM

David Lefebvre

Growing up, David Lefebvre thought he’d enjoy being a pilot. But as an adult he ended up flying just once, an experience he didn’t enjoy. He did, however, find himself in a driver’s seat for a large part of his career. Encouraged by his brother, a 21-year bus operator, Lefebvre joined what was then the Metropolitan Transit Commission in 1986. He spent the next eight years driving buses and the following 24 years working in bus and facilities maintenance.

As an operator Lefebvre, split his time between the Nicollet and South garages. Low in seniority, the first route he was given involved bringing groups of rowdy teenagers to and from a roller rink in St. Louis Park. “All they told me was to put my foot to the gas and not to stop until I got downtown,” he remembered. The job remained interesting, too. When heavy rain fell in 1987, he found himself having to back an articulated bus back onto Interstate 494 to avoid driving through standing water. To keep a group of suspected pick-pockets from exiting the bus before police could arrive, he locked the doors and they escaped out a rear window. 
 
While he enjoyed driving and interacting with most of his passengers, those scenarios and a schedule that required him to work a lot of late nights and weekends ultimately led Lefebvre to pursue a new line of work in Bus Maintenance. He’d tinkered some with cars and was confident he could learn the skills he needed by working alongside experienced technicians. And that’s what happened: Lefebvre spent two years as a cleaner, five years as a fueler and then became a technician, swapping radiators, bellows, rods and doing other hoist work. Lefebvre’s time in bus maintenance was spent largely at South Garage. It was the right place at the right time: at South, Lefebvre met the woman who would later become his wife, Beth Radke, who was then working as an operator.
 
After nearly a decade, Lefebvre had, by his own estimation, become an “above average” technician. But all the heavy lifting was beginning to wear on him, so he decided to try his hand at building maintenance. He spent a few years at the Overhaul Base, returned to South and spent the final eight years of his career at Nicollet Garage. In building maintenance, Lefebvre did electrical work, plumbing and a variety of other tasks, once again learning on the job. “I like fixing things and that’s basically all building maintenance is – fixing anything that breaks,” he said.
 
On his final day of work, Lefebvre said he’d miss many of the people he worked with over the years. But he also had a lot to look forward to. He and Beth recently had their first child, Ruby. Lefebvre also hoped to spend more time golfing, fishing, hunting and building a cabin on a piece of Wisconsin property he’d owned for the past 20 years. “It’s really been fun being here,” he said. “It’ll be sad and a little strange not coming in after all these years.”

2018

Brad Smith 

Transit Supervisor
Posted by Christina McHenry | Wednesday, April 11, 2018 1:29:00 PM

Brad Smith

Brad Smith thought he’d have a career in radio. So after studying the business in Minneapolis, he returned to his hometown and started working at the station there. But it didn’t last long. Encouraged by his father, he gave up the job and returned to Minneapolis to pursue a relationship with a woman he’d met while in school. It was a good move: Smith married that woman, Sue, who put him in touch with family members working in transit. It wasn’t long before those connections led him to apply for a job as a bus operator, the first stop in what would become a 40-year career at Metro Transit.
 
When he started as a bus operator at Nicollet Garage in 1978, Smith had a lot to learn. He didn’t know the area and remembers thinking of North Memorial as sounding more like a statute than a hospital. He was also a little unsure behind the wheel. “I was getting passed all the time, and could never stay on schedule,” Smith said. “I remember thinking this was the biggest mistake I ever made.”
 
Smith eventually found his way, though, and stuck with it hoping his new line of work would lead him back to his passion for radio. He applied for a job in the Transit Control Center, where he’d communicate with bus operators by radio, and was taken on in 1980. Smith joked that, in the new job, he instantly had more listeners there he ever had working at the Wisconsin station. It was especially clear that he had an audience when, working on Christmas Eve, he was encouraged to extend a “Merry Christmas,” to all the operators working that evening. The responses he received consumed most of the rest of the evening. On another memorable winter night, a blizzard left him stranded in the TCC for over 36 hours.
 
Smith wasn’t entirely bound to the desk, though. Like others in the TCC, Smith also spent time on the street monitoring operations. Getting out into the community became increasingly appealing, too. Given the opportunity to devote all his attention to the street, he took it. As one of the agency’s first transit supervisors, he monitored suburban service that Metro Transit was being provided under contract. He later took responsibility for a large swath of south Minneapolis and Bloomington, including the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. At the airport, he helped coordinate employee shuttles and maintain service through large projects, including the construction of what was then known as the Hiawatha light rail line. His familiarity with the area led him to take a leading role in developing plans to provide bus service when light rail trains couldn’t operate.
 
There were plenty of memorable moments from Smith’s time as a transit supervisor, too. On Thanksgiving night 1982, he worked through the night and into the next day as buses had to be detoured around a large fire that consumed a downtown Minneapolis high rise. Working at the airport led to several encounters with well-known figures. “The neat thing about my job is that, even though I can make a list of things to do, I never really know what my day will bring,” he said. “I’ve seen presidents, huge disasters – it makes for good storytelling at parties.”
 
In retirement, Smith planned to spend time with his family, including four children and seven grandchildren. He also hopes to travel and to take on more opportunities to DJ. “I’m going to miss it, but it’s time to move on,” he said.

2018

Dale Massie, #1101 

Operator-East Metro
Posted by Christina McHenry | Wednesday, April 11, 2018 12:55:00 PM

 

Dale Massie grew up just a block off University Avenue, and his father William Massie spent 37 years as a streetcar and bus operator. So it wasn’t all that surprising when, after working briefly as an over-the-road truck driver, Massie followed in his father’s footsteps and started a career of his own in transit. 

After 18 months at the newly-opened Heywood Garage, Massie returned to St. Paul where he worked at the old Snelling and East Metro garages. Among his favorite routes was Route 71, which went right by his home. After retiring, Massie said he was proud of the service he provided over the course of his 30-year career. “The job wasn’t always easy but I tried to do my best so everyone had a good ride and got to where they needed to safely,” he said.
 
When he retired in January 2018, Massie said he didn’t have any immediate plans but that he was considering moving south to enjoy warmer weather.

2018

Mark Glocke, #4292 

Body Shop Supervisor
Posted by Rich Bothe | Tuesday, April 03, 2018 9:01:00 AM

Mark Glocke

Growing up on St. Paul’s East Side, Mark Glocke would often catch up with his dad, a bus operator, and ride back to the old Snelling Garage with him at the end of his shift. “That’s probably where I got my first smell of bus exhaust,” he said. He also spent his high school years learning to take apart and repair engines. The experiences made a lasting impression: After going to school for heavy diesel mechanics, Glocke applied for a job in bus maintenance and within days was working as a cleaner at the very same garage his father had took him to as a boy. It was the first of many stops in a career that would eventually span more than four decades.

Glocke’s time as a cleaner was short-lived – he became a helper his first week and, within a year, was working as a technician. As a technician, he performed tune-ups, built engines and repaired what were known as “smokers,” buses that had engine leaks and were emitting large amounts of exhaust. After a brief venture in the trucking industry, Glocke returned in 1982 to serve as a supervisor at Nicollet Garage. It was a difficult job: Buses frequent broke down and he had to rally an unruly group of technicians to do whatever they could to get all the necessary buses out each day. He succeeded and was rewarded with more responsibility at the larger Snelling Garage, then home to nearly 300 buses.

Those experiences led to what would become the most significant role of his career, a 23-year run as body shop supervisor. Unlike his previous roles, the job wasn’t just about managing people. At the time, technicians were primarily responding to immediate needs and haphazardly repairing buses that could be set aside for a few days. Glocke helped implement a program that led every bus to be fully-refurbished halfway through its in-service life, usually after six or seven years on the street. Figuring out when and how to pull buses for these mid-life repairs was quite a task, but Glocke was committed to making it work. The motivation to do well came in part from his time in the trucking industry. “We’d see buses with their panels flapping and just laugh, joking that they were about to take off into flight,” he said. Metro Transit would soon become known for having one of the best-looking and top performing fleets in the nation. The body shop also developed a reputation for bringing buses back to life after major collisions. Glocke can only think of a handful of buses that were deemed beyond repair during his tenure. The success reflects the strong sense of ownership and accountability Glocke promoted among technicians in the body shop. “People knew if we didn’t do a good job, we’d have to redo it,” he said.

Even so, the shop was a laboratory where new and tenuous ideas could be tested without fear of failure. The body shop frequently received requests to build custom tools that could be used on the shop floor or in other parts of the business. One of the most unique challenges the body shop received was to adorn a bus with lights for the holidays – what would become known as the beloved “Twinkle Bus.” “We had a lot of side jobs where we’d just have to get everybody together and say, ‘What can we do here?’” Glocke said. “It was fast, it was fun and there were always lots of challenges.”

In the final year of his career, Glocke was tapped to serve as the acting assistant manager of the Overhaul Base, where he helped oversee operations and advised his successor in the body shop. In retirement, he plans to enjoy his family, including three children and six grandchildren, finish some house projects, and spend more time hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors. He also hoped to do more traveling, including some long-distance train trips, and to stay involved in the Ham Lake Lions Club.

2018

Gary Bier, #3062 

Transit Information Representative
Posted by Christina McHenry | Monday, March 12, 2018 12:00:00 PM

Gary Bier

When Gary Bier showed up to apply for a job with Metro Mobility, he was told they weren’t hiring. But just two weeks after putting his name in, he got a call and was asked to begin working as what was then known as an order taker. His job, essentially, was to answer the phone and help Metro Mobility customers schedule trips. Metro Mobility provides door-to-door transportation to individuals who can’t use regular route transit service.

He enjoyed the work, but in 1985 Metro Mobility services were contracted out and Bier was left with a decision: transfer to the Transit Information Center (TIC) or find a new line of work. He chose to join the TIC, where he’d build a 38-year career and retire as the department’s most senior employee. Bier helped customers plan well over 1 million trips during his career and said he enjoyed helping people understand how to get where they needed to go. “I would say 99 percent of callers were very appreciative of the service, going back to when I started to present day,” he said shortly before retiring.

Bier’s presence was one of the few constants during his tenure at the TIC. In the mid-1980s, TIC representatives used a thick directory of printed schedules and large wall maps to help customers, often spending more than 20 minutes planning a single trip. By the time Bier retired, it wasn’t uncommon for representatives to take up to 200 calls a day, planning trips within minutes online. Bier developed a firm grasp of the system, but still used the new trip planning tools to verify his intuition and avoid leading people astray.

Besides being a patient presence on the phone, Bier strongly supported his co-workers. He coached fellow representatives and spent nearly 20 years training new hires. “I liked the interaction and the challenge,” he said. “You had to find different ways of communicating with people.” Bier also spent more than 13 years as a union steward, representing ATU Local 1005 members in Transit Information, Finance and Service Development. Bier said he enjoyed representing his fellow union members and working with management to resolve issues. “We could disagree but at the end of the day, I understood where they were coming from and they understood where I was coming from and we both wanted the best for the employees,” he said.

In retirement, Bier plans to get long-stalled projects done around the house and spend more time with his family, including his wife, whom he met while working at Metro Mobility, children and grandchildren. 

2018

Mike Hadel 

Revenue Balancing Clerk
Posted by Christina McHenry | Monday, March 12, 2018 11:43:00 AM

Mike Hadel

When Zayre Shoppers City shut down, Mike Hadel, who’d managed one of the chain’s gas stations, found himself looking for a new line of work. Recently married and with a newborn son, he wanted a job with good benefits and opportunities to grow. His dad had been a streetcar operator and he remembered being told that the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) was always hiring. So transit seemed like a good place to look for a fresh start. He applied and was offered a job in the Transit Information Center (TIC), one of several stops in what would ultimately become a memorable and rewarding 37-year career.

In the TIC, where he started out at $2.35 an hour, Hadel helped Metro Mobility customers schedule pick-ups and assisted callers who needed help planning trips using transit. At the time, TIC employees used large printed maps and printed schedules to plan trips, a time-consuming process that led to long calls. Hadel was among the department’s first employees to use a computer.

While he enjoyed the work, Hadel sought a new challenge and moved to Payroll, where he reviewed operator timesheets. That job led to yet another move, to Revenue and Ridership, where Hadel spent the final 23 years of his career. At the beginning of his time in Revenue and Ridership, Hadel was tasked with providing suburban transit providers ridership data for their services, then operated under contract by Metro Transit. Later, he helped adopt and improve new fare collection equipment, including stored-value cards and an expanding network of ticket vending machines at rail stations. Because the technology was new, Hadel often had to create reports or processes for the first time. “Our motto was ‘Figure it out for yourself,’” he said. 

Hadel was especially proud of the work he did to assist with credit card investigations, to maintain essential data and of a suggestion that led to the creation of portable ticket vending machines that could be temporarily put into service during large events. He also enjoyed helping with manual passenger counts, taking hundreds of trips and meeting people across the agency.

In retirement, Hadel plans to become more involved in the Minneapolis chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, explore opportunities to sing and travel. He also looked forward to spending time with his family, including his wife Ann, rescue dog Kirby, son Nate, daughter-in-law Melissa, three grandchildren and two “grand dogs.”

2018

Lynnette Olson, #1624 

Operator-South Garage
Posted by Christina McHenry | Monday, March 12, 2018 11:39:00 AM

Lynnette Olson

Lynnette Olson began taking the bus at a young age, becoming so used to riding that she didn’t feel the need to get a driver’s license until she was 18 years old. Her older brother worked in bus maintenance and, while working as a gas clerk on Nicollet Avenue, she regularly chatted with operators on break who spoke positively about their work. So as a single mom eager to find a steady job with good benefits it wasn’t altogether surprising that she’d apply to become a bus operator. She was hired in 1984, and ultimately built a nearly 34-year career at Metro Transit.

Olson’s first stop was at what was then known as the Shingle Creek Garage, now known as the Martin J. Ruter Garage. Her early career also included time at the Heywood and Nicollet garages. At the time, she was among a small number of female operators, which led to some doubts about her abilities. “It was kind of a grueling place to be a woman,” she said. “But I grew up with five brothers so I knew anything the guys could do I could do. It didn’t deter me at all.”

Among her memorable early experiences was working nights on Route 9, when large groups of men would exit Moby Dicks, a Hennepin Avenue bar, and crowd the front of the bus hoping to get her attention. The night Olson was assigned to bring a group of fraternity members and their dates to a Medina ballroom also stands out, in part because she drove the 60-foot bus into a dead-end parking lot and had to back up, inch by inch, over the course of several hours. “I could’ve driven the bus home backward after that,” Olson said.

After having her second child, Olson set driving aside and spent ten years as a janitor at South Garage. The move allowed her to work during the day and spend time with her kids in the evening. Spending more time at the garage helped her get to know her co-workers, including, another long-serving operator, Jerry Olson, who she later married.

While it made her nervous, Olson returned to driving to have more control over her schedule. The move also brought variety back to her working life, something she craved to keep the job interesting. While she worked several different local and express routes, her career also included a four-year stint on Route 535, where she became a familiar face to several customers. Some were so close, she said, that they delivered cards when her mother passed away.

That experience was just one of many, she said, that underscored the role Metro Transit has played through all her life changes. “This job has been a real blessing,” Olson said shortly before retiring. “Everything that’s happened throughout my adult life, it’s been in the background.”

In retirement, Olson planned to spend more time with her family, including her two children and several grandchildren. She also looked forward to traveling, gardening and organizing thousands of pictures collected through the years.

2018

Ricky Krebsbach, #240 

District Supervisor
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, January 18, 2018 12:44:00 PM

Ricky Krebsbach

After going to school to learn how to fix factory machinery, Ricky Krebsbach spent more than a decade doing just that. But after losing several jobs to factory closures, he took the advice of friends and relatives working in transit and applied for a job as a bus operator. The only experience he had at the time came from driving a fire truck as a volunteer with the Center City Fire Department. “I thought, ‘You know, if I go there I know it’s not going to close,’” Krebsbach said. “I came here for security.” And he found it, building a nearly 33-year career as an operator, relief dispatcher and district supervisor.

Krebsbach’s career began at South Garage and he’d worked at every garage but Ruter by the time he joined Street Operations 18 years later. He liked the work, he said, because he got to pick his hours and could continue traveling the Midwest as a show skier. Looking for a new challenge that didn’t involve office work, Krebsbach participated in a career development program and joined Street Operations as a supervisor in 2003. At the time, about a third of his time was spent observing buses to see if they were arriving on time. As technology took over that task, he could devote more of his attention to the work he truly enjoyed – helping operators through detours, accidents or other service interruptions. He worked primarily in and around St. Paul, familiar territory from his childhood. “What I really liked about the job was the freedom,” Krebsbach said. “I could go anywhere I thought I was needed.”

Supporting special events brought some unique and interesting challenges, too. In 2005, Krebsbach helped devise plans to serve the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, identifying accessible boarding locations, drawing up route maps and helping to make sure buses could accommodate multiple wheelchairs at a time. During the State Fair, he was assigned to Ridgedale Mall, a temporary Park & Ride site that was overwhelmed with hundreds of customers and quickly abandoned. “There was a point when we probably had 600 people in line and no buses,” he said.

Later in his career, Krebsbach helped Street Operations begin downloading on-board videos and develop protocols for traffic signal violations. He also attended countless pre-construction meetings to ensure transit operations weren’t adversely impacted by roadwork, and he was especially involved during the construction and 2014 opening of the METRO Green Line.

When he retired in January 2018, Krebsbach said he planned to continue water and snow skiing and to do more traveling. “The people, the security, the job – it’s just been fantastic,” he said.

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