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Sam Caron 

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, May 27, 2021 9:53:00 AM

In 1988, Sam Caron began his career at Metro Transit as a part-time police officer, splitting his time as a Sergeant with the Saint Paul Police Department. When he retired from the force, he was hired to work in the Transit Control Center (TCC). “They were looking for someone with both police dispatch and Metro Transit experience,” Caron said. “After getting that job, I discovered there were other places I could work here.” 

When he started in the TCC in 2000, it was located on the main floor of the Heywood Office and shared similar duties with Street Operations, which exposed him to working both jobs and how the system works. He eventually moved to Street Operations as a Street Supervisor. In 2009, he became an assistant transportation manager at Nicollet, then moved to East Metro, where he ends his career. Through large events like the Super Bowl and Final Four, and later the COVID-19 pandemic, he served as an acting garage manager. He also served as one of Metro Transit’s representatives on APTA’s Security and Emergency Management Standards Working Group.  

“I really enjoyed all my jobs. They were complex and always challenging, due to technology or simply what’s happening in the world,” he said. “But I especially enjoyed working with operators every day.” Caron always aimed to create a welcoming atmosphere in his office, starting with a simple candy dish. “There are times operators are required to meet with me, but I’d rather have more interactions outside of those times to help build relationships,” he said.  

In retirement, Caron plans to golf frequently and in warmer climates, work on some home remodeling projects, and spend quality time with his family and friends.

Peter Durant 

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, May 27, 2021 9:52:00 AM


Peter Durant credits his aunt’s relationship with a fellow nurse during World War II as the reason he’s here instead of Barbados. While abroad serving as a nurse for the British, she met a Minnesotan nurse, who sponsored her immigration following the war. It wasn’t long after that Durant and his mother were sponsored by his aunt.

“I’ve now been in Minnesota now longer than I’ve been in Barbados,” Durant said. “We came here to seek opportunity, and I found it here.”

After arriving in Minnesota in 1977, he began work as a mechanic – a course of study he took after high school. Previously working on diesel boat engines in Barbados, the transition to buses was natural. In Minnesota, he started at a big box retailer’s garage, then moved to an interstate bus company. During a mass layoff as they closed their Minneapolis location, he applied to be a Metro Transit mechanic in 1985.

“My old employer offered me a job, but it required me to move. But, I wanted to stay close to my family here,” he said. “Applying to Metro Transit was the best decision I made in my career.”

Durant’s career spanned 35 years and he worked in nearly every single garage, except Old Northside and East Metro. The bulk of his time was at Heywood, but today he finishes his duty at Ruter Garage. He looks fondly upon his time, the friends he made, and amazed at the number of changes throughout the years.

“Life is like drifting in the ocean; you never know where it will carry you.” he said. “But when opportunity comes, grab it and hope for the best.”

In retirement, he returns to the Caribbean with his wife to build a retirement home on a plot of land they’ve purchased. He looks forward to inviting family to enjoy the home and the fruit trees he’ll plant, and perhaps join him spearfishing for red snapper.

Christy Bailly 

Director-Bus Transportation
Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, April 29, 2021 2:05:00 PM

Christy Bailly didn’t plan to make a career in transit. After finishing high school and moving to the Twin Cities, she went to the University of Minnesota for a year then set out to make a career, working at an employment agency, in retail and designing clothes. When her father, a 20-year bus operator, suggested getting a job with a pension and insurance, she applied to work in the Transit Information Center. At the time, she thought of it as a “short stopover” on her path to something different. Her time in the TIC may have been brief, but her career in transit was not. Over the course of four decades, Bailly took multiple opportunities to assume more responsibility and improve conditions for operators like her father, who motivated her throughout her career. In April 2021, Bailly retired as the Director of Bus Transportation.  

Bailly’s dedication was evident from her earliest days in the TIC. Shortly after she was hired, she underwent knee surgery and relied on co-workers to carry her up the stairs to work. Once there, she flipped through 3-foot wide books, her leg elevated and on ice, to help customers plan their trips over the phone. Her persistence and warm demeanor made an impression on supervisors who suggested she consider a role in management. That day would come, but not until after Bailly spent time as an order filler/dispatcher for Project Mobility, a paratransit service. Bailly’s job was to review trip requests, calculate travel times, create runs for operators and let customers know when they could expect to get picked up. When paratransit services went to private providers, Bailly helped monitor their service and provided feedback. It was in that role that Bailly learned about the supervisors who helped manage regular route service, an exposure that would set the stage for the next phases of her career.

Eager to make a case for herself, Bailly learned as much as she could by sitting down with several managers and carefully studying rulebooks on her own time. To her surprise, though, she didn’t get the job. A week later, she got a second call – one of the two people in front of her wouldn’t be immediately able to take the supervisor position, which was now being offered to her. Bailly spent the next 11 years as a supervisor, a role that allowed her to become an advocate for drivers like her father. “I saw what the job did to my father, how it became so stressful at the end, so my main goal was to make the job better for drivers,” Bailly said. In practice, that meant spending hours patiently listening to operators, joining them at the hospital after an assault and making the case for the creation of the Peer Support program, which she considers one of her signature accomplishments. Bailly never shied away from the job’s difficulties, either. Throughout, she worked nights and didn’t hesitate to respond to potentially volatile situations. Meticulously dressed in a linen suit, clipboard in hand, she would often arrive at a scene before police and take control of the situation. “Maybe I was a little too brave but that was just my style,” she said. “I talked my way into things and out of things pretty well.” Bailly also worked closely with Service Development to improve schedules, helped make the case for supervisors to get computers, then a novelty, and developed an automated logging and reporting system for supervisors call DSL, along with the Operating Condition Reports that allowed operators and staff to elevate their concerns.

Bailly’s enthusiasm led to roles as an assistant manager and manager in street operations, and as an assistant director of field operations. After six months as the acting director of Bus Transportation, she was asked to apply, earned the promotion, and spent the last 11 years of her career leading the department. During her time in leadership, she continued to advocate for drivers by promoting new training and safety programs and creating a stronger support system for operators who are assaulted. Bailly was particularly proud of a campaign to reduce farebox conflicts by encouraging operators to see their roles as fare informers instead of fare enforcers. Other accomplishments include earning her Emergency Management Certification and spending more than 12 years on APTA’s Security and Emergency Management working group, the creation of a team of communications specialists who communicate with riders in real-time, and a training program educating operators about human trafficking. 

In retirement, Bailly planned to spend more time advocating for the protection of wolves and the environment, traveling, reading, and visiting family. Looking back, she said she was glad that she took her father’s advice and that she made the most of the opportunities that arose during her career. “When I started, management was the last thing on mind. I thought I’d get in, get some pension, make my dad happy and get out,” she said. “But it got in my blood right away. Working with operators, customers and the community, making a difference…the love just grew and grew.”

2020

Donald Hills  

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, April 13, 2021 1:38:00 PM

As a factory worker, Donald Hills didn’t often get to see the sun. “I’d start before the sun rose and end after it had set, especially during winter,” Hills said. “And, I had to work a lot of overtime just to make ends meet.”  

So in his 30s, Hills applied for a job that came with a window to the world. His 30-year career as a bus operator began at Ruter Garage, then known as Shingle Creek. There, he met Martin J. Ruter. “I remember being surprised when I met him. He asked me to help him figure out how to use the parking brake on a new type of bus,” Hills said. “That showed me early on that no matter how long you’ve been on the job there's always something new to learn and a new bus to master.”  

At the start of his career, Hills faced some difficulties. He credits Sam Jacobs, then a manager at Shingle Creek, for keeping him on track with a simple question – “What’s wrong?” “I wouldn’t be here all these years later if he hadn’t asked me that question,” he said. Hills also recalls how nervous he was about working nights. He relaxed, but not before earning the nickname “rookie” from regular customers. “Looking back, I shouldn’t have been so sacred,” he said. “You just need to talk to people onboard and you’ll be alright.”

Hills’ 30-year career was preceded by a childhood in Minneapolis, where he grew up riding the old Route 26 with his mother to downtown. Today, the driveway to one of his old houses is a bus stop along Highway 252.

Hills retired in early 2021. In retirement, he and his wife planned to travel the country with a camper in tow. As a history buff, Hills was especially excited to visit Civil War sites along the east coast and other historical landmarks.

2020

Jody Theisen 

Janitor
Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, February 3, 2021 9:21:00 PM

Jody Theisen was looking for work when a job service suggested applying at what was then know as the Metropolitan Transit Commission. He applied, was hired as a vault puller at the old Northside Garage and went on to build a 40-year career in transit, retiring in early 2021.

After three years as a vault puller, Theisen saw an opportunity to make a higher wage as a janitor and put his name in. During the interview, he impressed the hiring manager by pointing to his perfect attendance. As a janitor, he worked at every garage except for East Metro, but spent more than 30 years at the Shingle Creek/Ruter Garage, which was close to his home.

Throughout his career, Theisen took pride in his work and enjoyed the company of those he met along the way. His attention to detail was seen early on, when he carefully swept up fare card punches left on the garage floor, and later when he spent a week using a power drill to restore a grime-covered bathroom sink.

In addition to his strong work ethic, Theisen was a welcoming presence at the garage. While working nights, he would often serve as a sounding board for operators as they pulled in. “I’d be the first one they’d see and they’d tell me everything that was going on,” Theisen said. “I know I helped a lot of people out that way.”

Theisen also enjoyed mentoring new hires and spent two terms as a union steward.

In retirement, Theisen plans to spend more time with his family, including four grandchildren and outstate relatives, and to bring his fishing pole with him wherever he goes.

2020

Richard Bledsoe 

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, January 28, 2021 4:28:00 PM

bledsoe

Heywood Operator Richard Bledsoe retired in January 2020 with 30 years of service: Bledsoe spent his entire career at Heywood Garage, where managers described him as quiet and hardworking. Customers regularly complimented him for his calm, quiet and consistent demeanor onboard no matter what was going on. 

2020

Topee Jackson 

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, January 28, 2021 4:27:00 PM

Topee Jackson immigrated from Liberia to the U.S. in 1981 seeking a better future. Nearly a decade later, as his home country was entering a civil war, he found his calling as a Metro Transit bus operator. In early 2021, Jackson retired after 31 years of service. 

When he arrived in the U.S., Jackson went back school to become an electrical systems draftsman (his credentials from Liberia didn't transfer). While working, he heard a radio commercial saying transit needed part-time, weekend operators. Jackson was looking for extra income to send back to his parents in Liberia, so he applied. After a month on the job, he decided to go full-time. "I found out I love driving a bus!" he said. "It's cool to be able to meet and talk with customers."

In retirement, Jackson planned to spend time with his children and grandchildren, who followed him to Minnesota. He also looked forward to returning to Liberia to fix up his childhood home, wrecked by the civil war, and to spend time with family there. 

Mark A. Johnson 

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, January 7, 2021 2:57:00 PM

After working several retail jobs and as an overnight security guard in north Minneapolis, Mark Johnson finally decided to apply to Metro Transit. "My then brother-in-law was an operator and kept telling me that I should become a bus operator," Johnson said. "33 years later, I'm glad I did. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to work for the company."

A 21-year-old Johnson began at the old Snelling Garage on Sept. 17, 1987. As a born-and-bred St. Paulite who grew up in the Dale-University neighborhood, Snelling was a great location. But soon after he was reassigned to Nicollet and Heywood. Johnson eventually made it back to old Snelling  Garage and stayed there until it closed. He spent the rest of his career at East Metro.

Driving Route 65, he made plenty of friends with customers who sat nearby in the "peanut seat" and opened up to him. He relished the chance to listen, smile and offer encouragement. "I wouldn't say much -- they would do most of the talking," he said.

Being a bus operator also allowed Johnson to build a life of his own. With good pay and benefits, he was able to buy a house and raise five children. In retirement, he now plans to spend more time with those children and grandchildren, and to practice ministry full-time. "I plan to keep in touch with all the friends I've made onboard during my time at Metro Transit," he said. "It's helped show me my purpose in life to be able to help others."

2020

David "Woody" Hopwood 

Stockkeeper
Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, December 29, 2020 8:34:00 PM

After finishing school, David Hopwood spent time in the Marine Corps, worked as an over the road trucker, made and sold ice cream and had several other odd jobs. Throughout, his uncle, a longtime bus operator, encouraged him to apply at what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission. At 25 years old, he got his chance, making $3.35 an hour as an operator out of the old Snelling Garage. It was the start of what would ultimately become a 32-year career in transit.

Hopwood’s time as an operator was relatively brief but formative. While driving, he met the woman who would become his wife and the mother to the couple’s four daughters. “The first thing I said to her was, ‘What’s your problem? You’re the only woman on this bus who hasn’t asked me out,” Hopwood recalled.

In 1996, a bad back left Hopwood unable to continue as a bus operator. While temporarily reassigned, a stockkeeper job opened and he applied. The job required computer skills he didn’t have – a co-worker helped type and submit his application – but he convinced the manager to hire him by saying he wouldn’t have to break any bad habits while learning on the job. “I still can’t type worth a darn,” he said shortly before retiring. “I got very fortunate.”

Hopwood enjoyed his new job’s schedule, the comfort of working indoors and the chance to work at Ruter Garage, just a few miles from his home. But he was equally fond of the people he worked with, who he came to see as extended family. “I’m closer to these mechanics than I am to my own brothers,” he said. One the friends Hopwood made through work led him to another life-changing moment, convincing him to travel together to Arizona where Hopwood met a 2-year-old girl he would later adopt. “This place just changed my life,” Hopwood said. “It brought me my family, my friends…all because I was here. It’s been my purpose to be here.”

During his career, Hopwood, known to most as Woody, spent several years as a union steward for the ATU Local 1005. He planned to remain active with the union in retirement. Approaching his retirement in early-2021, Hopwood said he also planned to spend his more time with family and friends, working on his house, watching westerns and assuming the role of Santa Claus over the holidays. 

2020

Thomas Myers 

Rail Supervisor
Posted by Drew Kerr | Saturday, November 28, 2020 9:06:00 PM

Thomas Myers was working in security and taking odd jobs when his mother suggested, strongly and more than once, that he try becoming a bus operator. Reluctantly, he submitted an application. A year later, he received an offer and began working out of the Heywood Garage. At first, he thought being a bus operator would be just another job. After a few years, though, he realized it could be much more than that. Ultimately, Myers would build a 30-year career in transit that included time as a bus operator, train operator, rail dispatcher and rail supervisor.

While Myers didn’t have any experience driving large vehicles, he was no stranger to transit. Growing up in Minneapolis, he rode buses as early as he could remember and even had a driver who allowed him to crank the rear destination sign when they reached the end of the line. While he had his doubts, Myers soon found he liked the independence and the chance to spend his days on the move. “It got to the point where I couldn’t wait to get up and go to work I was so eager,” he said.

After 20 years as a bus operator, though, Myers decided to go in a new direction and became a train operator. Immediately, he was impressed by the chance to operate Blue Line trains in heavy snow, to go through tunnels and to avoid traffic. Being in the operator’s cab, he said, was “just heaven.” Later, Myers became a rail dispatcher and used that experience to apply for a rail supervisor job. As a supervisor, Myers helped keep trains on schedule in the field and in the Rail Control Center, where train movements are monitored and controlled. Being in the RCC, with a wall of oversized monitors and other equipment, he felt “like a kid in a candy store.” Myers was also proud to be the first supervisor to use a new SCADA system.

Reflecting on his career shortly after his 2020 retirement, Myers said he was glad his mother had encouraged him to apply all those years ago, even if he didn’t necessarily want to admit that she was right. “I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction, but she knew I appreciated it,” he said. In retirement, Myers hoped to find a new line of part-time work and to relocate to warmer weather.

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