Skip to main content For screen readers, our previous mobile pages might be more easily navigated while we continue to improve the accessibility of our website.

 
2017

James Schlafer, #3337 

Transit Information Representative
| Sunday, January 01, 2017 10:29:00 AM

James Schlafer wasn’t entirely sure what it would be like helping customers plan trips over the phone. But he’d spent his entire life biking and taking transit around the Twin Cities and had several years of experience as a telemarketer, providing what might have been the quintessential background for a job in Metro Transit’s Transit Information Center. It worked so well, in fact, that Schlafer ultimately spent more than 31 years as a Transit Information representative, becoming the department’s longest consecutively-serving employee by the time he retired in early-2017. “I’m pretty good at sticking with things,” Schlafer said wryly shortly before his retirement.

By his retirement, Schlafer had assisted up to 1 million callers over an estimated 3 million hours on the phone. The job was far from routine, though. Throughout his career, Schlafer challenged himself to look for solutions that weren’t immediately evident, mastering the quirks of local address systems and developing personalized mental shortcuts that helped him decipher the vague outlines callers sometimes presented him. “You get to know what people mean, even if they don’t really know what they mean,” he said. Schlafer’s intense study led to an encyclopedic knowledge of the transit system, at one point giving him the ability to place more than 120 routes on an unmarked map by memory. While technology eventually gave Transit Information representatives more immediate access to online trip planning tools, Schlafer said his intuition and knowledge base continued to be useful throughout his career. “Even if I didn’t have a computer or all these resources I could find out pretty accurately where someone was and still help them,” said Schlafer, known to callers as “Mr. James” throughout his career.

Schlafer took pride in proving the breadth of his knowledge, often telling self-convinced callers they’d owe him a Dr. Pepper if he could persuade them they were mistaken. “There are lot of people out there who owe me Dr. Peppers,” he said. That didn’t mean he wasn’t patient, though. In fact, Schlafer holds a likely record for the Transit Information Center’s longest phone conversation, a two-hour, 17-minute marathon call with someone looking for help getting around Burnsville and Eagan. “Usually, I try not to be on the phone long enough to have to be patient, but in this case all I could do was humor them for a really long time,” he said.

Approaching retirement, Schlafer said he would miss being a resource to his co-workers and answering what seemed like unsolvable puzzles. But he planned to have an active retirement, spending more time biking and taking daily hikes with his wife Diana, completing the Superior Hiking Trail, making photographs, writing music and participating in Mensa, a high IQ society.

2016

Roger Haas, #5312 

Manager-Fleet Services
| Tuesday, November 01, 2016 2:29:00 PM

Roger Haas

As one of nine children, Roger Haas regularly rode the bus while growing up in St. Paul. With a single car for the entire family, his father was also a dedicated transit rider who eventually found work as a mechanic at what was then the Metropolitan Transit Commission. So it wasn’t altogether surprising that, after graduating from Normandale Community College, Haas would also end up taking a job in transit.

Haas began his career as a cleaner/sweeper at the old Northside Garage in early 1975 and quickly moved into a helper/fueler position. While waiting for the Shingle Creek Garage to open in Brooklyn Park, Haas helped fuel more than 400 buses that were being stored inside and outside of old Northside each day. He moved to Shingle Creek when it opened, and also spent time at the Nicollet, old Snelling and South garages, gaining experience as he moved into skilled helper and mechanic roles. In 1988, he moved to the Overhaul Base where he worked on brakes, transmissions and in the body shop, among other jobs. “I did just about everything there at least once,” Haas said.

That wide-ranging experience led to a supervisory role in fleet services in 2009. The final four years of his career, Haas served as the manager of fleet services, overseeing a team of supervisors and mechanics to identify and implement best practices in Bus Maintenance. Haas also worked closely with bus manufacturers to provide feedback, help guide mechanical improvements and order new vehicles. “What’s really nice is to be able to see a project from start to finish, and to be able to measure success at the end,” he said of his time in fleet services. “There’s challenges that come with everything you do – time, money, buy in – but when you do succeed it’s extra sweet.”

Reflecting on his career, Haas said he appreciated having a steady paycheck, good benefits and a strong support network that encouraged and helped him along the way. “I’ve really been blessed throughout my career to have had the opportunity to learn from everyone who walked through the door,” he said. After more than 41 years of service, Haas retired in November 2016. In retirement, Haas plans to devote more time to his farm in Isanti, where he raises chicken and cattle and grows hay, and to go fishing and hunting more often. Haas and his wife Karen have two children – David, who works in Bus Maintenance at Metro Transit, and Steven, a surveyor Anoka County.

2016

Rick Sovde, #5506 

Mechanic-Technician
| Monday, August 01, 2016 10:34:00 AM

Rick Sovde was working as a meat cutter when a strike took him off the job for more than five months. Uncertain about his employer’s future and eager to get back to work, he started putting in applications. He quickly found a job as a Cleaner at the old Nicollet Garage – the start of what would become a 35-year career in Bus Maintenance. Sovde said his long tenure was largely a result of enjoying the people he worked with. “It was almost like a family working there,” he said. “We weren’t just work cohorts but friends in life.” Sovde said he also liked working in the old Snelling and Nicollet garages, environments that weren’t always clean but were rich with character and history. “When you were working in the bays in the early morning and all the old flexibles were pulling out, they’d start up and smoke like crazy,” he said. “You could hardly see the hand in front of your face it got so thick.” Sovde spent the majority of his career at South Garage, where he enjoyed making friends with mechanics and operators alike. While at South, Sovde became known for rebuilding seats and mirrors – efforts that began as a way to pass the time after finishing work orders but would become areas of unique expertise. Sovde rebuilt hundreds of seats and thousands of mirrors during his career; he also passed the knowledge on to Mechanic-Technicians at other garages. “I started doing it on the side but, just like anybody, you get really good at it when do it so much,” he said. Sovde retired in August 2016, with plans to spend more time golfing, hunting and taking weekend trips with his his wife, Lisa Sovde, an Asset Management Clerk at Metro Transit.

2016

Kevin Johnson, #2798 

Operator
Posted by | Sunday, July 10, 2016 3:40:00 PM

After graduating high school, Kevin Johnson began studying chemistry, driving a school bus and considering his career options. With a bleak job market even for those with college degrees, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a bus operator. He started on May 27, 1975 and ended up spending more than 41 years at Metro Transit – a decade longer than his father and, at the time of his retirement, the highest-seniority operator at the company. Johnson said his longevity was largely the result of good pay and benefits – his starting wage was $5.41 an hour – but that he also loved driving and meeting customers. “I had an inside job, but I was always working outside,” he said. “And while you didn’t get to pick the people you met, you did get to meet people.” He was also good at what he did: Johnson’s had a nearly-flawless driving record when he retired. Johnson’s career began at the Old Snelling Garage, where he was first assigned to the old Route 3 that ran on Grand Avenue (he remembers that route mostly for the heavily-perfumed older women). He spent a few years at the old Northside Garage and had a stint at Nicollet Garage before returning to Old Snelling and moving to East Metro when it opened in 1984. He spent much of his career working the extraboard and on urban routes. In St. Paul, Johnson was in familiar territory; he grew up and went to school on the East Side. After years of early-mornings, Johnson said he is looking forward to living without a schedule in retirement. He plans to travel the United States with his wife Marita, golf and spend time with his family, including six children and eight grandchildren. “Whatever I do, it’s not going to entail an alarm clock that’s for sure,” he said. “That things a goner.”

2016

Ned Swentik, #562 

Dispatcher
| Friday, July 01, 2016 10:54:00 AM

Growing up, Ned Swentik never set foot in a bus. When he was hired as a bus operator in 1985, though, he quickly became familiar. “It was my first day and here they have me driving right off the bat,” he said. “It was kind of exciting.” Swentik ended up spending the next 25 years as a bus operator, learning every route in the system by moving garages every few years and spending nearly all of his time on the extraboard. The variety helped keep him going. “When you move every two or three years, it’s like going to a new job with all new people,” Swentik said. “It kind of gives you a boost.” During his time as an operator, Swentik trained to be a Dispatcher and spent six months as an Assistant Transportation Manager through the Leadership Academy. He spent the last five years working as a full-time Dispatcher, but continued to serve as a miscellaneous operator for all but the last year of his career. As a Dispatcher, Swentik said he particularly enjoyed doing the markup, putting the pieces together to ensure all of the available work was correctly assigned to operators. Aside from his work duties, Swentik is also proud of his efforts to get a garden started at South Garage, growing sweet corn that became a frequent treat at the garage. After nearly 31 years of service, Swentik retired in July 2016. In retirement, Swentik plans to build on his gardening skills by moving to a hobby farm in southern Missouri where he can grow peaches, grapes and plums. Swentik also hopes to help his wife start a horse rescue and to spend more time with his family, including four children and seven grandchildren.

2016

Jan Homan, #4113 

Deputy Chief of Operations-Bus
| Friday, April 01, 2016 2:42:00 PM

Jan Homan

Jan Homan’s career in transit began on Christmas Eve 1975. Hired as a Cleaner, he spent the overnight shift working alone in the then empty Shingle Creek Garage. After that solitary evening, Homan quickly found his place as a leader and innovator and, above all else, a friend. Over his 40 years at Metro Transit, Homan continually took on new and different challenges. After working as a Mechanic at the old Northside and Snelling garages, he landed his first supervisor job, as a foreman at Nicollet Garage. In 1992, he became the Maintenance Manager at Heywood Garage. It was in this role that Homan helped re-define the inspection process and shift attention toward preventative maintenance. In 2000, Homan became Metro Transit’s Director of Bus Maintenance. As Director, Homan helped Metro Transit adapt new technologies, including hybrid-electric buses, worked to create opportunities for others and continued to lead efforts to improve fleet reliability. In 2013, Homan was named Deputy Chief of Operations-Bus and began leading both the Bus Maintenance and Bus Transportation divisions. Read more about Homan's career at metrotransit.org/ridersalmanac.

2016

Chuck Wurzinger, #5255 

Assistant Director-Bus Maintenance
| Friday, April 01, 2016 11:13:00 AM

Chuck Wurzinger knew early on that he wanted to do something related to public service. He began as a Cleaner in 1979, then spent the next decade repairing buses in various service garages. In 1989, he became the Cleaning Supervisor for all garages. Two years later, he became a Fleet Service Supervisor for ADA equipment, brakes, air systems, steering and suspension. Wurzinger also trained mechanics, worked on accident and fire investigations and filled several open positions, ranging from Shop Supervisor to Assistant Director. In 2007, he became the Assistant Director for Technical Support, managing a staff of 11, including trainers, fleet service supervisors and an engineer. Wurzinger also led bus, fuel and tire leasing procurements and managed Bus Maintenance contracts and individual bus production runs. Wurzinger retired in April 2016 with nearly 37 years of service. Upon his retirement, he said he never imagined he’d have such a lengthy career in transit, but that new challenges and opportunities motivated him to continue. In retirement, Wurzinger plans to spend time traveling with his wife and biking. “Of course, the biggest hole left by my retirement will be missing everyone I’ve worked with at Metro Transit,” he said.

2017

John Mattson, #1563 

Facilities Technician
| Friday, April 01, 2016 9:45:00 AM

After serving as a Marine in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict, John Mattson thought he’d go back to school to study engineering and science. But in 1975, on the recommendation of a friend, he applied for a job at Metro Transit, where he could put his “backyard mechanic” skills to use. He spent the next decade working as a cleaner, fueler and helper at the old Northside and old Snelling garages before moving into Facilities Maintenance so his days would have more variety. As part of a small and mobile facilities team, Mattson spent time at several garages. Eventually, though, he found a home at South Garage, where he spent the last 25 years of his career. Though he could have gone elsewhere, Mattson said he took pride in making South the best it could be. “I’ve always considered this my baby and the place where I belong,” he said. Mattson took particular pride in keeping the garage clean, well-ventilated, and lit and battling blizzards that nearly buried the garage during the winter months. Mattson retired in April 2016 with plans to spend time golfing, watching and photographing birds, and monitoring osprey nests along the St. Croix River.

2016

Sabina Miller, #1548 

Operator
| Saturday, February 06, 2016 10:03:00 AM

In 1980, Sabina Miller volunteered to drive her friend to downtown Minneapolis so she could take the test to become a bus operator. Miller’s friend’s dad was currently working as an operator, and her friend’s grandfather had started with the trolley cars, and each had proclaimed the great benefits of working for the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC, the precursor to Metro Transit). So rather than wait in the car for her friend, Miller decided to take the test as well. She passed. So, it is only by happenstance that Miller was hired as one of the first part-time operators. She moved into a full-time role eight months later. Seeing a woman behind the wheel of the bus continued to surprise riders well into the '90's. (Woman drivers were so rare that when Miller was pregnant in 1984, she had to sew her own own maternity uniform; Miller said she will always remember customers’ gasps upon seeing a pregnant bus operator.) Along with a few years as a Relief Dispatcher, Miller spent most of her first 20 years at Nicollet Garage, with a brief stint at the old Snelling Garage. Her final 15 years were spent at South Garage. People would often ask Miller, "Isn't it hard to drive a bus?" and she would tell them, "Driving the bus is the easy part. It's dealing with the people that is hard." Even so, Miller said she will miss the peaceful calm of the early mornings and the deep connections she had with regular customers. The most profound thing that she said she took away from her 35 years of service is that everyone has a story. In retirement, Miller said she is taking the compassion she learned for people to address tremendous community needs, teaching people how to read as a literacy tutor.

2016

Ed Pedersen, #1662 

Rail Dispatcher
| Monday, February 01, 2016 10:17:00 AM

Growing up in Minneapolis, Ed Pedersen’s parents would give him 32 cents a day to ride to and from school on the bus – 15 cents for each trip and two cents to buy a carton of milk. Instead, he hitched rides on the bumper and used the profit to buy ice cream sandwiches. He eventually got on board, though, and while studying Criminal Justice took a job as a part-time bus operator. Even then, he said, he hoped it was where his career would begin and end. “Back in those days, it was an awesome thing to get into transit,” Pedersen said. “I planned on retiring from here as soon as I got my foot in the door.” And that’s exactly what happened. Pedersen spent 15 years as an operator – working at the South, Heywood, Nicollet and Old Snelling garages – and the second half of his 31-year career as a relief- and full-time dispatcher for bus and rail. As an operator, Pedersen said he enjoyed the challenge of maneuvering such a large vehicle. One of the most difficult assignment he took was during a 1984 blizzard when he volunteered to take a group of stranded passengers from the airport to downtown Minneapolis, driving the only bus on the road at the time. “When we got there, they (the passengers) were all throwing cash at me they were so glad to be at a hotel,” he said. It wasn’t the only time Pedersen stepped in during a time of need, either. As a longtime extraboard driver, he would drive his RV to work, camping out for several days and picking up work as needed. That experience led to the next phase of his career as a Dispatcher working to ensure all of the day’s routes were covered. Pedersen said he enjoyed the daily challenge and took particular pride in having never being unable to fill a piece of work – something he says came from building good relationships. Pedersen moved to light rail in 2010, where the job was similar but more technologically advanced. During his time as a Rail Dispatcher, he helped implement a system that allowed light-rail operators to schedule and pick work electronically. Whatever role it was, Pedersen said he always took pride in doing his best. “To go home at the end of the day and be able to say you did the best that you could is a very rewarding feeling,” he said. Pedersen retired in February 2016 with plans to spend more time raising animals and crops on his hobby farm in Big Lake. Pedersen also looked forward to having more time with his family, including 11 children and more than 20 grandchildren.

Page 4 of 14 << < 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 > >>

Skip footer navigation

CONTACT US
FOLLOW US ON: