George Hernandez wanted the kind of job he could stay in until retirement. So after leaving school and briefly working at an aluminum foundry in St. Paul he applied at two places he thought would offer steady employment – the U.S. Postal Service and the Metropolitan Transit Commission. MTC was the first to respond. And just like that Hernandez’s 36-year ride in transit began.
Hernandez started his career as a bus operator at the old Snelling Garage, where his two older brothers already worked. He immediately liked the job and continued to drive up until his retirement, maintaining a clean driving record the entire time. But he also saw a chance to help his fellow operators. So when he was offered a new role as an Instructor in 1985, he gladly took it. “I always liked helping people – that’s why I think that job fit me so well,” Hernandez said. Hernandez also spent several years providing peer support, responding when operators needed someone to talk to after a traumatic incident.
In 2011, Hernandez was asked to serve as East Metro’s Garage Coordinator. As Garage Coordinator, Hernandez helped schedule new operators, coordinated quarterly picks and stayed in close contact with the Instruction Department to ensure training requirements were met. “It’s a lot of scheduling,” Hernandez said. “You have to know what’s going on next week and the week after.”
More than that, though, he was an all-around problem solver who was always eager to help, even when it meant staying longer or being pulled away from other work. And as one of Metro Transit’s largest garages – there were nearly 400 bus operators at East Metro at the time of Hernandez’s retirement – there was always plenty of work. “There were days I’d look back and think, ‘What did I get myself into?’” Hernandez said. “It definitely kept me on my toes.”
After 36 years, though, Hernandez decided he was ready to have more control over the course of his days. As he looked forward to retirement, he said he was eager to spend more time exercising, traveling and with his family, including wife Joanne, son, four daughters and ten grandchildren. “I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done and I still enjoy it,” he said. “But there’s another part of life that I’m looking forward to.”