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Great People

Saluting decades of service to our customers

The accomplishments of those who have dedicated their careers to Metro Transit inspire us to do our best work. We are proud to honor members of the Metro Transit family who retire with more than 30 years of service here. Retirees are also honored with plaques on board buses and trains, and in the Metro Transit Wall of Fame at the Metro Transit Police & Office Facility.


Jay Russell 

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, July 14, 2022 5:48:00 PM

When Jay Russell began in 1984, Metro Transit operated very differently. “I drove buses that didn’t have power steering, AC, or radios,” he said. “And, if we needed to call the Transit Control Center, we’d have to find a payphone.”

Though not always easy, those 13 years as a bus operator provided the foundation for what would become a 38-year career in transit. Jay retired last week with plans to travel with his wife across the U.S. and abroad.

After his time as a bus operator, Jay became a transit supervisor. He enjoyed supporting special events, helping operators, and the sense of autonomy the work provided. “Out there, you’re a part of a team, but also your own boss in many ways,” he said. “And it’s great to be outside all day.”

For the past 15 years, Jay has served as an assistant manager in Street Operations, a fitting capstone to his nearly four decade career. “I’m proud of being able to move up in the company,” he said. “When I started, I never thought I’d be anything but a bus operator.”


Tim Maloy 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, June 27, 2022 2:25:00 PM

When he turned 18, Tim Maloy was looking for a job. What he found was a 42-year long career at Metro Transit.

It began after following the advice to apply from his stepdad who worked as a bus operator at the old Northside Garage. When Maloy saw an opening for a vault puller, he applied, and the rest is history.

“At the time I was excited to get a 5-cent increase to 5 dollars an hour from my previous job in fast food,” Maloy said. “But what really mattered is that I had benefits. It was then I knew that if I worked here long enough, I could retire.”

As he enjoys numbers and technical problems, Maloy found his niche in fareboxes. His career began at the Old Shingle Creek garage as a vault puller for 7 years. Then, he decided to follow the vaults into the central cash room at Heywood, where he spent the next 6 years. Finally, he found his last career stop as a Farebox Technician at the Old Snelling Garage and then the Operations Support Center. Today, he retires as the Lead Farebox Technician.

“I worked with a lot of good people,” he said. “This is a great company to work for and I tell people to apply all the time.”

He is especially thankful for the benefits that kept him out of debt while providing medical care to his first wife as she battled a disease that eventually took her life.

“Transit’s been very good to me,” Maloy said. “But it’s time for me to retire.”

In retirement, Maloy plans to spend more time with his second wife who recently retired as well. They plan to travel the US with their three pugs and eventually split their time between Minnesota and Florida.


Sy Sharp 

Mechanic Technician
Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, June 22, 2022 5:42:00 AM

While at college, Sy Sharp had a realization. It wasn’t for him. “I couldn’t picture myself in a suit or working in an office,” he said. “In high school, I always loved working with my hands in shop class.”

After leaving college, he took a job as an orderly at a nursing home, worked at a packing house, then decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Silas Sharp, who retired as Metro Transit’s longest-serving employee with 52 years of service. “I grew up around my dad and uncles working on cars at home, so it was always something I thought about,” he said.

In 1979, Sharp started as a sweeper at Nicollet Garage. In 1980, he became a technician, a job he held until his retirement in 2022.

His career helped him put four children through college and provided years of smiles and laughs with co-workers. “This is the best labor job I’ve ever had,” he said. “But it’s time for me to go.”

In retirement, Sharp planned to see the country driving long haul trips, to visit Europe, and to get back to playing music.

Donald Helledrung 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, June 20, 2022 5:43:00 PM

Donald Helledrung started his 35-year career at Metro Transit as a part-time weekend operator.

When he was offered full-time, he quit his job in sales and worked towards the retirement he envisioned.

“I’m a workaholic and I took advantage of every opportunity I could,” he said. “However, I never sought another position as I knew I could maximize my pension by being a bus operator.”

He’d often elect to work 16-hour days, seven days a week to reach his goals, even as he gained seniority within the union. Many operators have tried his schedule and don’t understand how he was able to do it. His strategy was simple, but effective.

“I always remember to not take the little things to heart and let things roll off me and focus on safe bus operations,” Helledrung said.

For 33 of those years, he called Nicollet Garage home and his coworkers, family. After a recent medical issue, however, he did six months of soul searching that led the 67-year-old to retire. He sees it as a farewell, however, and not a goodbye.

“We all keep in touch, even the retirees,” he said. “It’s been a fabulous ride that went by in a blink of an eye, but now it’s time for me to go.”

In retirement, he plans to spend more time with his wife, another retired bus operator, at their cabin in Minnesota and vacation home in Arizona.


Deb Downing 

Transit Supervisor
Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, June 15, 2022 9:04:00 AM

In 1987, Debra Downing was expecting her second child and looking for another source of income to help put gifts under the tree. So when she spotted a newspaper ad inviting police officers to join Metro Transit’s fledgling police department in part-time roles, she applied. Downing submitted her application the night they were due and joined the first group of 20 part-time officers hired, beginning what would become a 34-year career in transit.

Downing’s career in law enforcement began in college, when she interned at the Minneapolis Police Department. She later joined the New Hope Police Department, where she spent 8 years as a patrol officer. When she joined the Metro Transit Police Department, she went from policing a six-square-mile area to traveling on buses across the region and working with officers from many different departments. “The beauty of that was that all of a sudden we’d created this network of police officers who could share information and get a lot of crime solved,” she said. Still, there were growing pains – when she was hired, Metro Transit police officers had squad cars but no uniforms and called in their locations using pay phones. On one memorable occasion, she found herself chasing a suspect in leggings, a Minnie Mouse T-shirt and a green down jacket. “At that time, we just hopped on the bus and hoped for the best,” she said.

Looking for a new chapter, Downing became a transit supervisor in 2006. The job had some similarities – transit supervisors often respond to collisions, operator assaults nd other incidents – with one key distinction. “As a supervisor, the biggest difference is that we look, but we don’t touch,” Downing said. Even so, some of her habits as a police officer remained, at least in the early days. “I didn’t hesitate to go on a bus and get someone off,” she said. “It was just second nature to me.” Downing’s time as a transit supervisor also meant diverting buses through major construction projects and support some of the region’s biggest events, like the 2008 Republican National Convention and the 2018 Super Bowl.

In retirement, Downing plans to spend more time with family, including several grandchildren, and at her lake home in northern Minnesota. “Next winter, when I’m looking out the window and seeing snow, that alone will make retiring worth it,” she said.


Steve Wortman 

Posted by John Komarek | Wednesday, March 23, 2022 2:05:00 PM

When Steve Wortman started at Metro Transit, he was looking for a job. He ended up finding a career.

"I wasn't planning on staying here, but after a few years, the vacation, pay, and benefits were adding up," Wortman said. "And when I compared it to other companies, the pay was always better here."

He ended up at transit because other companies said he was too young as he was under 25 years old. Forty-three years later, their loss was Metro Transit's gain.

He started at the Northside Garage, then moved to Heywood where he's been ever since. He's been a bus operator, instructor, backup coordinator, and coordinator -- where he ends his career. Throughout he's always driven a bus when needed.

"In all that time, I've seen a lot of changes from how the company operates to new clientele," he said. "And, I've helped support many big events like the State Fair, Super Bowl, World Series, Final Four, and an All Star Game."

In retirement, he plans to drive long haul buses and take vacations with his wife and grandchildren.


Dan Syverson 

Rail Coordinator
Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, March 14, 2022 8:36:00 AM

Dan Syverson was a truck driver in the early 1980s in North Dakota when a friend suggested applying at Metro Transit. He did, and there he stayed for 41 years, building a career that was both professionally rewarding and enough to put three children through college. “It’s worked well for me,” Syverson said shortly before retiring in March 2021. “Once you have a family and children, you have to have stability. It was good for us.”

A bus operator for the first 10 years, and then an instructor, Syverson saw Metro Transit grow up. “I have seen a lot of evolution in all of Metro Transit, from the red buses with no power steering to the buses nowadays that are like Cadillacs,’’ he said.

In 2003, Syverson switched to light rail where he learned to operate trains six months before the METRO Blue Line’s opening day in 2004, and then helped train other operators who moved over. “I was always interested in rail but never thought that opportunity would come and was happy to be part of it,’’ he said.

Late in his career, Syverson served as rail coordinator, ensuring all operator training needs were covered. Until the end, he continued to operate trains as needed.

In retirement, Syverson and his wife, Mary Jo, planned to spend more time biking, camping, and traveling, including cruising on European rivers. He also considered finding a part-time job driving a school bus because he likes children and wants to keep busy. “It’s hard to be idle after working so long,’’ he said.


Greg Stowe 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, March 7, 2022 5:08:00 PM

Looking back, Greg Stowe wishes he would have started at Metro Transit sooner.

“After finishing vocational school, I found out that Metro Transit had programs to train people to be mechanics,” Stowe said. “I should have come here instead.”

In 1984, he started as a skilled helper and a few years later became a diesel mechanic. Stowe worked at a few garages before landing at Heywood Garage, where he worked for most of his career.

“Heywood was my home,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve watched a lot of changes. I’ve enjoyed the variety of what you do.”

Beyond seeing changes, he took part in helping make some of them as a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) executive board. After being appointed 14 years ago, he ran unopposed throughout his career.

Being a member of the board put him in a position to work with management and negotiations.

“We butted heads sometimes, but we always respected each other,” Stowe said. “It’s always best if we can work together as a team.”

Now, as he retires, it’s time for another person to take his place in the garage and on the board. After all these years, Stowe hopes his efforts are remembered.

“I gave it my best,” he said. “I hope I’ve made an impact on people’s lives and how we operate. But now it’s time to move on.”

In retirement, Stowe and his wife plan to spend time at their cabin up north and take care of his aging mother.


Bob Patkoff 

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, January 25, 2022 2:45:00 PM

In 1973, Bob Patkoff began his career in the bus industry as a baggage handler for an interstate bus company out of Dallas, Texas.

“Working in the bus business, you get to meet a lot of people,” Patkoff said. “I’ve driven the New York Yankees and met lots of folks, like the Zelles and Jesse Jackson.” He fondly remembers receiving a signed baseball from Reggie Jackson, a player with a reputation for not signing autographs.

After a brief break to study in college and serve in the Army, he returned to interstate busing. However, he was spending an average of 285 days away from home and his family. “It was too much time away,” he said. “So, I started to look for other jobs in other places, like Kansas City, Chicago, or Minneapolis-St. Paul.”

In 1987, he arrived in Minnesota, his birth state. Three years later, he began as a part-time operator for what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission. Three years later, he became a relief dispatcher. In 2002, he earned a job as a full-time bus dispatcher, where he spent the bulk of his career. From 2016 to 2021, he worked in rail as a dispatcher.

For the last year of his career, he returned where he began: bus operations. “It’s my first and last job,” Patkoff said. “It’s been good to me.”

Patkoff retired in early 2022, after 32 years of service. In retirement, he and his wife plan to be “snowbirds,” splitting their time between Minnesota and Oklahoma, the state he was raised and has family and friends.


Harry Mandik 

Train Operator
Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, January 21, 2022 6:09:00 AM

Ever since he got his license, Harry Mandik liked driving. So, when a friend suggested becoming a bus operator, he set aside his aspirations of becoming a machinist and applied. Mandik retired nearly 36 years later as a decorated and well-respected operator with experience in both bus and rail.

Mandik’s career began at the old Snelling Garage, and he later worked at the South and East Metro garages. After 17 years as a bus operator and relief instructor, he was encouraged to join the first group of operators to move to light rail. Though he wasn’t sure at first, Mandik quickly came to love railroading and never looked back. “Driving a different type of vehicle and being able to do it well was rewarding,” Mandik said. “Plus, it was a smoother, quieter ride. And getting to learn all the different rules and about the equipment – it was all pretty interesting.”

When the METRO Green Line opened in 2014, Harry joined those carrying customers between Minneapolis and St. Paul, where he grew up. Being a part of the Green Line’s opening, he said, was yet another thrilling chapter in his career. “It was exciting in the sense that we were starting to build a system,” he said. “It felt good to see that we were growing and expanding.”

As both a bus operator and a train operator, Mandik exceled. He went his entire career without a responsible collision, won two Rail Rodeos and placed second in three consecutive Bus Roadeos. In 2021, he was named the Minnesota Public Transit Association’s Operator of the Year, a reward reflected both his skills and his role as a leader among his peers. 

Besides the enjoyment he got from driving, Mandik said he was grateful to have made so many friends over the years and to have had a job that provided good benefits and steady employment. When he retired in early 2022, Mandik was the last remaining train operator from the first group that came to light rail.

In retirement, he planned to spend more time volunteering and pursuing other interests like personal finance, home architecture and bicycling. “This job has provided a good wage and steady employment for 35 years,” he said. “I’ve done pretty well so now it’s time to give back.”

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