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Posts in Category: 2019

2019

Frank Hernandez 

Mechanic-Technician, East Metro
Posted by Christina McHenry | Tuesday, February 12, 2019 3:43:00 PM

Frank Hernandez

After completing his service with the U.S. Marine Corps, Frank Hernandez found himself back in, St. Paul, his hometown, driving a cab. When a friend suggested he apply at what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission, he hoped he could continue driving. But he found a job in bus maintenance instead, beginning as a cleaner at the old Snelling Garage.

Not that he wasn’t prepared for that kind of work. While in the military, Hernandez repaired and maintained jeeps, large trucks and other heavy equipment. His abilities helped him quickly move into technician roles at Snelling, the Overhaul Base, South and East Metro, where he spent the final 18 years of his career. Over time, Hernandez became a confident and efficient technician, often finishing his assignments well before he was expected to do so. 

At East Metro, Hernandez focused on inspections – “finding problems for other people to fix,” as he described the role – and spent more than a decade as a bay service technician. As a bay service technician, Hernandez spent his mornings troubleshooting buses that wouldn’t start, replacing headlight or taillight bulbs and making other quick fixes as operators prepared to leave the garage each morning.

While his career was devoted to bus maintenance, Hernandez still found plenty of opportunities to get behind the wheel. At Metro Transit, he regularly signed up to drive before or after his shift, covering work that couldn’t be assigned to an operator. He also helped deliver new transit buses made in Minnesota, driving them across the country to their final destinations.

Hernandez retired in February 2019 with more than 45 years of service. After retiring from Metro Transit, Hernandez said he planned to continue driving buses between the Twin Cities and the Mystic Lake Casino.

2019

Terry Whitson, #304 

Operator-Heywood
Posted by Christina McHenry | Friday, January 11, 2019 2:07:00 PM

Terry Whitson

Terry Whitson thought he’d make a career as an industrial welder. But when the company he was working for moved out of state, he found himself looking for a new line of work. His then father-in-law was working as a bus operator and suggested he try driving for a living. “It was the last thing that I ever would have thought of,” Whitson said. Even so, he applied and started shortly thereafter as a part-time operator at what was then called the Shingle Creek Garage. Whitson would ultimately spend almost 34 years as a bus operator.

Whitson remembers being pretty nervous as he started out on his new path. But he liked the challenge, the variety and the clean uniforms. So he stuck with it. After a few years at Shingle Creek (now the Martin J. Ruter Garage), he became a full-time operator and moved to the old Snelling Garage, where he found himself in unfamiliar territory. “I didn’t know St. Paul at all so it was kind of a crazy time,” he said. Before long, though, he was back in the comfortable environs of Minneapolis. From his home in North Minneapolis, Whitson could take the bus, walk, bike or occasionally even hitchhike to work. Working at Heywood was more than convenient, though. At the garage, Whitson found himself surrounded by friends and family. “I was really surprised how many people worked here that I already knew,” he said.

As a longtime extraboard operator, Whitson experienced a lot of different routes. But for nearly a decade he drove Route 16 between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. Whitson said he enjoyed the route because it was “straight ahead, not a lot of hills and few turns.” He also spent many years on Route 7.

Shortly before retiring, Whitson earned a five-year Master Operator award for his attendance, customer service and safe driving skills. He also retired with a 29-year safe driving record and as a top finisher in several Bus Roadeos. The accomplishments were all the more meaningful because they followed a several-year period in which Whitson admittedly took the job less seriously than he should have. With support from his managers, peers and family, he charted a new path. Over time, he became something of a role model himself, passing along advice and answering questions from newer operators.

In retirement, Whitson planned to spend more time fishing, skiing and boating on the Mississippi River. “I call it my great escape,” he said. “Out there, it’s just water, wildlife and blue skies.”

2019

Rick Rolfson 

Lead Stockkeeper
Posted by Christina McHenry | Wednesday, January 02, 2019 1:55:00 PM

Rick Rolfson

When American Hoist closed its St. Paul operation, Rick Rolfson found himself looking for a new job. This time, he thought, it should be one that didn’t come with the risk of being laid off. So he applied for a job at Metro Transit, a company he believed would offer the kind of stability he was looking for. A year later, he was asked to work in what was then known as the Storage Department. It was the start of a career that would eventually span nearly 32 years and bring him to nearly every Metro Transit work site.

When Rolfson began, he was asked to help the department transition from a loosely-organized, paper-based inventory system to a computer program (TxBase) that would make it easier to organize and track the thousands of parts Metro Transit needed to have on hand. “I didn’t really want to do it but the older guys didn’t want to either so I was kind of forced into it,” he said. Despite his initial hesitancy, Rolfson proved more than up to the task. He created a step-by-step guidebook and taught others how to use the system throughout his career. The initiative he showed early on would become one of the hallmarks of Rolfson’s career.

Rolfson was the first stockkeeper to work a second shift (at the Martin J. Ruter Garage) and he helped setup materials areas at several locations, including the newly-remodeled Nicollet Garage Radioshop and each of the light rail facilities. Toward the end of his career, he also led efforts to keep better track of more parts, assigning serial numbers that could be used to make effective warranty claims. “A lot of my job has been filling holes – figuring out the need and appeasing it,” Rolfson said.

Throughout his career, Rolfson was also looked at as a trusted and knowledgeable resource who saw a direct connection between his work and the company’s success. “Goal number one has always been to have vehicles there when people need them to be, no excuses,” he said. The dedication he showed came from enjoying the work, and from recognizing he’d found the peace of mind he’d been seeking when he applied. “I never lost the idea of how good a job this was,” he said. 

In retirement, Rolfson planned to work on his home, travel and spend more time fishing, hunting and riding his motorcycle.

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