Growing up in St. Paul’s East Side, Jeff Gauthier and his grandmother would regularly visit his grandfather Lawrence, an MTC operator, for lunch between trips. His dad Fred also built a 45-year career in bus maintenance. So it’s unsurprising that when Gauthier was encouraged to make a career in transit he heeded the advice. And while he wasn’t sure how long he’d stay when he began, he wound up spending 42 years in bus maintenance, working on at least seven different types of buses as technology continued to evolve over the course of his career. “I never knew how long I’d be here, but once I got in and started seeing the work people did, had a steady check and good insurance I figured, ‘I’m going to stay right here. This is perfect,’” Gauthier said shortly before his retirement.
Gauthier’s career began as a Cleaner at the old Snelling Garage. He worked for a few years as a foreman for Metro Mobility, but spent the majority of his time as a Mechanic-Technician tearing apart and rebuilding motors. And he never left his hometown. After the old Snelling Garage closed, he continued and finished out his career at East Metro. But Gauthier still saw plenty of change over his four decades in maintenance. Troubleshooting went from an intensely manual process to one based primarily on computer programs. Engines became progressively more complex and powerful. And the environment he and his fellow mechanics shared became markedly better. “When I started, we were working in what was really just a dingy old streetcar barn. It would rain and the manhole covers would come up,” he said. “When I got to East Metro, it was like night and day.”
Looking back, Gauthier said keeping up with those changes, and the satisfaction he got from mastering a new skill or repairing a bus, were what kept his interest over the years. Friendly co-workers and a supportive workplace made it all that much easier to stay. “It’s hard to leave a place like this, because everything’s been so good,” he said. Even so, Gauthier decided it was time to say goodbye, retiring in January 2017. In retirement, he plans to continue building his business repairing small hoists and to finally take his fishing boat out of storage.