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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.

2018

Phyllis Wade-Myers, #273 

Operator-East Metro
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, January 11, 2018 1:35:00 PM

Phyllis Wade-Myers

After moving to the Twin Cities in 1974, Phyllis Wade-Myers spent a decade leading what was known as the “fluff department” at a commercial laundry service. Commuting on the bus, she was impressed and encouraged when she saw women behind the wheel, thinking to herself, “I could do that.” And so she did, building a reputation for warmly greeting everyone who stepped on board during her 33-year career.

While she entered with confidence, Wade-Myers was quickly struck by the realities of the job and found herself wondering, at least initially, if she was cut out for the work. During her early training, she remembers her palms sweating as she brought a group of fellow trainees back to the garage. The working conditions were a challenge, too: Buses lacked heating or cooling systems, so in the winter she bundled up and put a piece of carboard on the floor to help shield her feet from the cold air. Her first years also meant working lots of nights and holidays, putting in 16-hour days while raising two children and keeping her job at the laundry service. “On Thanksgiving, I’d go home between shifts and baste the turkey,” she said. “You just did what you had to do and you didn’t really think about it.”

Wade-Myers got more comfortable, though, and decided to make transit a full-time pursuit when she realized the job would pay twice the $7 an hour she made at the laundry service, putting her dream of owning a home within reach. She was good at it, too: in her 33 years, she recorded no responsible accidents.

Her comfort on the job allowed her personality to shine at work. At the garage, she served as an informal mentor and motherly figure, befriending her peers and offering her thoughts on the job, personal health and spirituality to those who sought her opinion. On several occasions, customers also asked for her counsel, staying with her during breaks to discuss whatever issues they were facing in their lives. For her part, Wade-Myers, was especially fond of the elderly and special needs customers she got to know. And she built strong rapport with commuters going to work early in the morning on Route 67, a route she operated for many years. Wade-Myers embraced any chance she had to learn from people of different backgrounds, too, initiating cultural celebrations at the garage and learning some Spanish and American Sign Language so she could better communicate with customers. “Everyone has a story, and when you learn that you get an entirely different perspective,” she said.

Wade-Myers’ personality extended to her wardrobe as well. An amateur clothing designer, she disliked the operator uniforms and regularly customized the attire to her tastes. That included a regular rotation of colorful scarves and unique jewelry, as well as some one-of-a-kind headwear fashioned out of the standard-issued clothes made available to operators. “For a woman to wear the same thing every day was just beyond me,” she said.

Looking back at her career shortly before retirement, Wade-Myers said she was grateful to have found a home at Metro Transit but surprised at how long it lasted. “I thought I’d be here until I ran across something better, but I just never found anything better,” she said. In retirement, Wade-Myers said she planned to spend more time volunteering and counseling through her church, Minneapolis-based New Salem Missionary Baptist, sewing, fishing and with her family, including two children and nine grandchildren.

2018

John Gomez, #632 

Operator-East Metro
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, January 11, 2018 1:33:00 PM

John Gomez

After leaving the Army in 1978, John Gomez followed his brother-in-law to the University of Minnesota where he studied to become a teacher. After several years commuting to a proofreader job on the bus, he turned his attention to an entirely different line of work: driving a bus. Encouraged by several of his wife’s family members who worked in transit, Gomez applied and began working as a part-time operator at the old Snelling Garage in 1985. While he wasn’t quite sure it was the job he wanted, Gomez eventually settled in and spent 33 years as an operator and instructor.

Reflecting shortly after his retirement, Gomez said he considered his six years as an instructor to be among the greatest accomplishments of his career. “I think it goes back to my aspiration to be a teacher,” he said. “It was an opportunity to pass along knowledge. And, for me, it was also a great confidence builder.” Gomez had other reasons to be confident in his abilities, too, including a nearly-flawless safety record that he says came from having patience and an innate ability to foresee and prevent accidents on the road. “I was prepared to get into an accident every day, so I always thought to myself, ‘What can I do to prevent that from happening?’” he said.

Gomez also found success by learning to put the pressures of the job aside and creating a welcoming atmosphere by taking the time to greet customers as they boarded. “It makes their life easier, it makes your life easier and you gain a friend,” he said. Living in St. Paul, his career was spent almost entirely at old Snelling and later at East Metro; among his favorite routes was Route 84.

Sharing stories and building friendships with his fellow operators helped Gomez throughout his career, too. The camaraderie that developed over the years, he said, is what he’ll miss most in retirement. “We all suffer through the same things,” Gomez said. “It’s a special kind of bond that only drivers can share.”

In retirement, Gomez said he planned to spend more time with his family, including two daughters, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He also looked forward to exercising more, especially swimming and golf, and to volunteering with the Shriners and the group’s drum corp.

2018

Greg Lee, #5420 

Facilities Technician
Posted by Christina McHenry | Thursday, January 11, 2018 1:13:00 PM

Greg Lee

Greg Lee was mechanically inclined from a young age, regularly tinkering with small engines and getting under the hood while growing up in New Brighton. So when it came time to look for work, he set out to make a living in maintenance. At 22 years old, referred by a friend, he applied and was hired as a Cleaner at Nicollet Garage. It was the first of several jobs Lee would hold over the course of his nearly 39-year career at Metro Transit. “It was odd hours, but I needed the work and the people were friendly,” Lee said shortly before retirement. “And it was what I’d call a reasonable atmosphere – no one expected more of you than you could give.”

That doesn’t mean Lee had limited expectations for himself, however. Shortly after joining what was then the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC), Lee bid up to a Helper position and began assisting Mechanic Technicians at the old Snelling Garage and, later, cleaning parts at the Overhaul Base. The on-the-job training helped him move into a Mechanic Technician role himself, performing tune-ups, repairing bulkheads, swapping engines, rebuilding transmissions and, for nearly a decade, doing rehab work in the Body Shop. “I was really fortunate to have people around me who had experience who could help me,” Lee said.

After three decades in Bus Maintenance, Lee moved to Facilities Maintenance where he continued to acquire new skills – hauling trailers, operating skid steers and, in one memorable case, using a jack hammer to remove a bench and setting it back into place with quick-drying concrete. Lee was among the first Facilities Maintenance employees assigned to the METRO Blue Line, helped install and repair countless customer waiting shelters and was regularly up before dawn to clear snow at transit facilities across the Twin Cities. Lee said he enjoyed being outdoors and the challenges that came with the constantly-changing work. “This is the kind of job where you have to think on your feet,” he said. “You have to go out and just figure out how to get the job done. You have to be a problem solver.” Whatever the assignment, Lee took pride in mastering the task and leaving a small footprint. “My motto’s always been if you can’t tell I did anything than I must’ve been doing my job,” he said.

Lee retired in January 2018, with nearly 39 years of service. In retirement, he planned to spend time camping and traveling, including an extended visit to Europe and a mission trip to Guatemala. Lee was joined at his retirement by wife Diane, son Mike and daughters Missy and Michelle.

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