Friday, January 01, 2016 2:15:00 PM
Growing up in Minneapolis, Gregory Gaustad regularly rode the bus to trade school downtown. And while he never thought he’d be the one behind the wheel, life led him to that exact spot and kept him there for the next 36 years. “I never really gave it much thought – it just kind of happened,” Gaustad said shortly before retiring in January 2016. Gaustad’s career began at the Old Northside Garage; he spent a decade at Nicollet Garage and closed out his career at Heywood Garage. Gaustad said driving came naturally and that he enjoyed the variety he got from being an extraboard driver assigned to different routes each day. Among his more memorable moments came in 1987, driving through a flooded area on Route 17. “You could see the water coming up the stairs and then down the aisle,” he said. “I had to get a little creative and go around.” Gaustad said his career was otherwise relatively quiet and uneventful. But he enjoyed visiting with his fellow operators and passengers, whose chit-chat made the days go a little faster. One reason for the relative calm was Gaustad’s patience and safe driving abilities – he recorded 28 years of safe driving during his career. In retirement, Gaustad plans to spend more time Up North ice fishing, deer hunting and with his family, including two daughters and one son.
Friday, January 01, 2016 10:32:00 AM
Silas “Sy” Sharp never shied away from work. After serving in the Korean War, he spent his days working as a heavy equipment operator with the City of Minneapolis and his nights at the Minneapolis Athletic Club, full-time jobs that took 16 hours of his day even as he studied management at the University of Minnesota. In 1963, on the advice of a club member who worked in transit, he took a job in bus maintenance at what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission, or MTC. For 22 years, he held full-time jobs with both the city and MTC. Sharp retired from the city after 30 years, and in early 2016 retired from Metro Transit with 52 years of service – the longest tenure in agency history. “I didn’t get much sleep sometimes – I averaged about three hours of sleep, four maybe,” Sharp said shortly after his retirement. “I’m the type of guy, I just love working.” At 28 years old, Sharp began his career as a cleaner sweeping buses at the old Northside Garage in Minneapolis. He later became what was known as a “hustler,” fueling and moving buses around the garage. His strong work ethic and history as a Sgt. in the Army led him to be recruited as a garage foreman, the first of several management positions he held in Bus Maintenance. Sharp also worked as a foreman at the old Snelling Garage and as the Maintenance Manager at the Nicollet and Martin J. Ruter garages. Sharp is particularly proud of his tenure at Nicollet, an underperforming garage he was tasked with turning around. “There were a lot of people here who said it couldn’t be done,” Sharp said. “I said, ‘There’s no such thing as can’t,’ because that’s what I was taught. That it can be done if you apply yourself. And Nicollet went from being one of the worst to the best. I was very proud of that.” In retirement, Sharp is spending more time with his family, including wife Mary, three daughters, two sons and 12 grandchildren, enjoying a new home in Florida and fishing.
Tuesday, December 01, 2015 2:28:00 PM
To continue receiving unemployment assistance, Bonnie Green needed to prove that she was making efforts to find a job. So when her husband, already working as a bus driver, suggested applying for the same job, she took the advice. To her surprise, she got the gig. “It wasn’t like it was a lifelong dream or anything, but I said ‘You have a job, and I need one,’” she said. Even so, Green didn’t think it would last. When she started in June 1979 she intended on staying only long enough to avoid being charged for the army green uniform the job required. “It would have cost me $250, and that was a lot of money for an ugly uniform I’d never wear again,” she said. Though it might not have been her original plan, Green ended up spending more than 33 years behind the wheel. Green retired in 2006 and returned in 2009 for another six years of driving (her first retirement came on April Fools’ Day, allowing her to brush that initial exit off as a ruse). A lifelong St. Paul resident, Green was the first part-time operator at the old Snelling Garage; when that garage closed, she move to East Metro. She drove every route in and around St. Paul, and was particularly fond of the old Route 5, with service between St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights, and the old Route 29 that went through West St. Paul. Green said she stayed with the job because she enjoyed driving, getting to know her fellow operators and visiting with customers who seemed to appreciate her friendly demeanor. “A lot of people are really grateful for any little help you can give them,” she said. Among her more memorable moments was the time she pulled up to a women in labor, covering her legs with a sweater until an ambulance could arrive. And while initially intimidated by the size of the bus, she turned out to be a natural, recording more than 25 years of safe driving. Green retired in December 2015 with plans to visit several national parks and stay active by going to the gym, golfing and bowling.
Sunday, November 01, 2015 10:27:00 AM
Just out of high school, Delroy Shafer faced a decision: he could complete Dunwoody’s electrician program or start working full-time and get his education on the job. He got to work, beginning as a Cleaner at the Metropolitan Transit Commission on Aug. 17, 1979. So began a 26-year education in Bus Maintenance. “Once I got here, I just decided I’d stay and train on the job,” Schafer said. “And I really picked up a lot, not just from experience but from working with people who really had a lot of talent.” Schafer did eventually go back to school, though, taking night classes to earn his electricians license. In 2007, he started working in facilities, doing electrical work at rail platforms and other transit properties. In the final three years of his career, Schafer worked as one of two Facilities Supervisors leading a team of around 20 people charged with maintaining Metro Transit’s support facilities. With a combined total of around 2.4 million square feet, there was a lot to keep up with. But the work was rewarding and allowed him to stay involved in one of his favorite parts of the job – trouble-shooting and resolving issues. Inspired by growing up in a union household, Schafer was also an active member of the ATU. Before the opening of the state’s first light-rail line, Schafer was part of a team that toured other properties and worked with management to craft rules for light-rail’s union workers. He was the first union steward to work on behalf of light-rail union members. While involved in the union, Schafer met his wife, Kellie Miller, who retired as the Manager of Scheduling in August 2015. Looking back, Schafer said he was grateful to have worked alongside so many skilled and knowledgeable people – including brothers Wayne and Dan – and to have had a reliable income that allowed him to put his two children through college. “Metro Transit is really the land of opportunity,” he said. “There are just so many different roads you can take in this company…this place provided pretty much everything.” Schafer retired in November 2015 with 36 years of service. In retirement, he planned to spend more time fishing and boating at his northern Minnesota lake home and to pursue a couple of projects – restoring a 1971 Yamaha dirt bike similar to the one he’d had as a teenager and a 27-year-old Boston whaler boat.
Assist. Director-Facilities Maintenance
Tuesday, September 01, 2015 10:28:00 AM
Wayne Schafer was working at the A Mill loading 100-pound sacks of flour onto freight trains when his dad advised him there were jobs available at the Metropolitan Transit Commission. Wanting more variety – and a job that would be a little easier on his joints – he applied. Schafer began his career in transit in April 1976, as a cleaner at the Old Snelling Garage. He later held jobs as a helper, fueler and mechanic at the old Northsisde, Shingle Creek (Ruter) and Nicollet garages. In 1984, Schafer moved from bus to building maintenance, fulfilling his continued desire for a job that wasn’t guided by routine. “Once I saw people doing that, I knew that was where I wanted to go,” he said. “There was no questioning it. It appealed to me a lot more than working on greasy buses.” Schafer’s tenure in building maintenance started at the Overhaul Base and later included stints at the Nicollet, South and Heywood garages. The job had just the kind of variety Schafer was looking for, involving everything from the installation of overhead doors to HVAC repairs and snow removal. “It was a jack-of-all-trades kind of job,” he said. “You worked to your comfort level or you just took something apart and tried to put it back together – it was always a self-learning process.” In 1999, Schafer took a supervisor roll and became the first member of Metro Transit’s fledgling Engineering & Facilities Department (“I had to find my own office,” he said). Within a year, he became the Manager of Facilities and took an active role in planning new buildings and transit facilities. Schafer was involved in the design of the East Metro Garage, several building renovations and the creation of dedicated space for Public Facilities and Transit Police’s East Command (Transfer Road). Schafer also participated in the planning for the Blue and Green Lines, Northstar and light-rail extensions. One of his enduring contributions was coming up with the concept for the standard customer waiting shelter, which prominently features Metro Transit’s logo (the shelter was inspired by a Hennepin County shelter placed in North Minneapolis). Over the course of his career, Public Facilities grew from 14 to 41 technicians and workers. Schafer said he was proud to have been a part of the department’s growth and the expansion of the region’s transit network. “It’s been a very rewarding job, because I think I did make a difference,” he said. Schafer retired in September 2015 with plans to spend time riding his dirt bike and going back to the thing that got him into building maintenance to begin with – “puttering” around.”
Manager of Scheduling
Saturday, August 01, 2015 10:00:00 AM
Kellie Miller wasn’t quite sure what kind of work she wanted to do when she took her father’s advice and interviewed for a job at the Transit Information Center (Miller’s father, Richard “Dick” Miller worked for the company as a dispatcher and operator). The decision led to a 37-year career in which she held multiple positions and leader for the ATU-Local 1005 union. After spending her first five years at TIC, Miller moved to Metro Mobility, where she spent three years scheduling bus and cab service for those who could not use regular route transit. From there, she moved to the Revenue Department where she worked as a balancing clerk, balancing farebox revenue. Miller then took a job as a timekeeper in the Payroll Department doing payroll for drivers and mechanics. Miller became a union board member in 1985 and in 1997 became a full-time union representative, where she was involved in grievance proceedings and contract negotiations. In 2006, she returned to Payroll for a short time, and then moved to the position of Asset Management Clerk. She moved to Service Development in 2008 to become a Schedule Maker. In 2012, Miller was named Manager of Scheduling, leading a team of five Schedule Makers, a Scheduling Analyst and a Bus Stop Coordinator ensuring quarterly service changes were delivered on time and in a cost-effective and efficient manner, in accordance with the ATU contract. Miller retired in August 2015 with plans to travel, watch Supercross races, fish, boat and spend time with family. Reflecting on her career, Miller said: “I always felt like I was helping people, whether it was helping passengers in TIC and Metro Mobility, Payroll making sure the employees were paid, ATU helping with union issues and in scheduling making better schedules for Operators & passengers.”
Saturday, August 01, 2015 9:58:00 AM
While he was in high school, Tom Mevissen spent time working at his father’s Phillips 66 service station. The experience led to his interest in auto mechanics and, eventually, to the doors of Metro Transit. After a short time as a taxi driver, Mevissen began as a Cleaner at Nicollet Garage on Oct. 17, 1977. Within just a few years he was working as a mechanic. In all, he spent 25 years working in service garages performing a variety of tasks. While his career began at Nicollet, Mevissen also worked at the old Northside Garage, the old Snelling Garage, Heywood Garage and the Overhaul Base. “It just seemed like it (working in the garage) was a natural fit for me,” Mevissen said. “I enjoyed all the jobs I had.” Nonetheless, Mevissen sought a different path and began training to get his boiler license. After receiving his certification, he moved into building maintenance, first at Overhaul Base and later at the Northstar Operations & Maintenance Facility. Mevissen said he enjoyed being at Northstar because it gave him an opportunity to see another side of Metro Transit. “Even though I didn’t work on the trains, it was fun to be around them and learn how they work,” he said. Mevissen retired in August 2015 with more than 37 years of service. In retirement, he plans to travel on his motorcycle and spend more “quality time” with his family, including three children and three grandchildren.
Wednesday, July 01, 2015 12:46:00 PM
When Tim Cusick started at Metro Transit in March 1980, his father bet him $1 he wouldn’t last more than a year. He won the bet handedly, building a career that lasted more than 35 years. While he stayed with the company, his roles changed several times. Cusick began as a Cleaner, washing buses at the Old Snelling Garage, but soon moved into a position as an overnight mechanic at the Martin J. Ruter Garage (formerly Shingle Creek). He later spent time at the old Northside Garage, the Overhaul Base and South Garage, working at different times as a Skilled Helper, Parts Cleaner, Fueler and in the Body Shop. Working on buses was a fitting role for Cusick: as one of ten children, his father often entertained him and his siblings by giving them a box of Cracker Jacks and letting them ride Route 12 to and from their St. Paul home. In 2009, Cusick transitioned to Facilities, working in building maintenance, installing and repairing waiting shelters, landscaping and replacing thousands of pavers at light-rail stations. Throughout his career, Cusick said he was motivated to work hard. “I had a golden opportunity to work in a lot of different places, but whatever I did, I owned it and took pride in doing it right,” he said. In July 2015, Cusick celebrated his retirement alongside his wife and two daughters. In retirement he plans to spend more time fishing, traveling in the U.S. and abroad, working on house projects and entertaining children who live nearby. Cusick has also “adopted” several neighborhood children whom he plans to keep entertained.
Wednesday, July 01, 2015 10:10:00 AM
Before Jerry Olson started working at the Metropolitan Transit Commission, he did not have a sterling driving record. In fact, he’d wrecked so many of his personal vehicles early in life that he’d earned the nickname “Crash.” After four decades of driving buses safely around the metro, the moniker had taken on more than a little bit of irony. Olson’s 41 years and 9 months of safe driving is believed to be among the best ever recorded among Metro Transit’s operators. His record as a safe driver is just one of the reasons Olson was remembered at his retirement as one of the agency’s most beloved operators. Olson spent 18 years as a trainer and had earned a reputation for being a strong mentor to his peers. He also won praise for his customer service skills and deep knowledge of the bus network (as an on-call operator, Olson drove many of Metro Transit’s routes). Olson’s commitment to safe driving and customer service earned him 28 Outstanding Operator awards. In 2014, the Minnesota Public Transit Association named him their Minnesota Bus Operator of the Year. Olson spent the bulk of his career at South Garage, where he met his wife Lynnette Olson, a fellow operator (#1624). Olson retired in July 2015 after nearly 43 years of service. His retirement plans include spending more time with his family, including five children and eight grandchildren, camping, travel and golf. Before retiring, Olson took one final trip that included friends, family and General Manager Brian Lamb. Pulling in for the last time, Olson said he was sad to part ways but that he was excited for the next phase of his life to begin. “I’ve spent more than two-thirds of my life here (at Metro Transit), so it wasn’t an easy decision to retire,” he said at the time. “But there comes a time when you just have to say goodbye.”
Friday, June 05, 2015 2:37:00 PM
Stephen Babcock was working as a truck driver when a roommate encouraged him to consider applying at Metro Transit. Babcock was hired and began as a bus operator at the old Northside Garage on March 5, 1973. Babcock spent nearly nine years driving before he was medically disqualified and transferred with ATU support to vault puller. Babcock also spent time working as a farebox reader, money counter, revenue clerk, data collector, cleaner and Transit Information representative, one of the richest and most diverse careers among agency employees. Babcock spent the final 20 years of his career as a stockkeeper. Babcock was a strong advocate for the ATU who believed in a balanced work place and that you could be a good employee and union member. After a strike in 1994, he joined the ATU Education Committee. He also contributed to the ATU paper, The 1005 Line. Babock retired in June 2015 with more than 42 years of service. With his talent in computers and his love of genealogy, he hopes to produce a book with his family tree that has over 6,000 documented individuals. He is also planning to research and visit the places of his ancestors.