After a few weeks sweeping buses at the old Northside Garage, Edgard Alvarez wasn’t sure he wanted to keep coming back. “I didn’t know I had to be a cleaner first,” he said. “I thought, ‘I went to school to be a mechanic, not to sweep buses.’” Alvarez stuck it out, though, ultimately making a 39-year career in bus and facilities maintenance.
Originally from Guatemala, Alvarez’s family moved to California and then to the Twin Cities. After graduating from South High School, Alvarez thought he’d become a Spanish teacher. But he found that he preferred working with his hands, picked up a few auto maintenance books and enrolled in vocational school. His first jobs were at Sears, JC Penny and Toro, where he worked on golf equipment. When a neighbor who worked as a bus operator suggested he apply for a job at Metro Transit, Alvarez took the advice. The first time he got a call back, he was out of town and missed his chance to get an interview. It would be another year before he got another call. This time, he answered, interviewed and got the job.
While sweeping buses wasn’t ideal work, Alvarez realized it would only be a matter of time before he could become a technician. And that’s what happened. After two years working as a cleaner, helper and skilled helper, Alvarez earned a technician role. He worked at nearly every garage, but spent more than 20 years at South where he performed inspections, did lift work and maintained air conditioning systems, among other duties. Alvarez said he liked working at South because it was just a few miles from his home and he could commute by bike. Alvarez also spent many years working the overnight shift so he could spend time with his three children, each avid hockey players. “I hardly ever missed their practices and probably saw 98% of their games,” Alvarez said.
When Alvarez learned about an upcoming opportunity in Facilities Maintenance, he set out on a new course. He began commuting by bus so he could use the time to study for a test he’d need to pass to earn a boiler’s license. He passed that test and, after 33 years in Bus Maintenance, got the job. Alvarez spent the remainder of his career in Facilities Maintenance. As a facilities technician, Alvarez, installed and repaired waiting shelters, came in early to clear snow, helped locate utilities and did a variety of other tasks. He liked the work, he said, because there was a lot of variety and he could spend most of his day outside. “When I’d go back into a garage to get something, I’d realize I had it pretty good because I was out and about doing things,” Alvarez said. “It was a really neat job.”
Alvarez retired in May 2019 with plans to spend more time with family, traveling, biking and playing hockey (after years of watching from the bleachers, he joined an adult league and began playing goalie). At the time of his retirement, Alvarez had been married to his wife Mirtha for 34 years, who he described as a very supportive partner. In 2019, Alvarez’s son was also working as a public facilities worker and his brother, Melvin, was working as a cleaner at South Garage.