When Operator Barbara Mestas walks into the Drivers Room at Heywood Garage, her big laugh and booming voice are a signal to her colleagues that their friend “B,” or “Barb” has arrived. Fellow operators are sure to say "hi." Some will ask Mestas for advice. Everyone knows she's fun to hang out with.
Indeed, during the nine years Mestas has worked as a Metro Transit operator, she's earned a solid reputation as somebody who brings people together. As she puts it, she’s pretty much a “people magnet.”
"I'm very approachable, very friendly, and I’m happy," Mestas said. “Everybody knows they can come and ask me about a route, or anything. Even the new people feel comfortable with me."
On her days off, Mestas and her coworkers get together for dinner or a movie, or to go bowling. "We call it our ‘Heywood family.’ Whoever wants to come, can join," Mestas said. "We try to make everyone comfortable who comes to our garage."
Mestas focuses her infectious optimism and magnetism on all her coworkers, not just her friends at work. She has started a few fundraisers for operators in need, and she regularly takes up collections as part of the Heywood Garage hospitality program to buy gift cards for coworkers who are going through hard times.
When she’s out driving, Mestas brings her friendly, broad smile and positive attitude to every route. She says she likes the challenge of the Extra Board schedule, and she says the routes are great because she gets to do something different every day.
"I love my job," Mestas said. "I'm a people person, so I enjoy talking and laughing with people. Whenever somebody gets on the bus I greet them, ‘Good morning,’ or ‘Have a good night,’ ‘How was your day?’ ‘How have you been doing?’ And people like that. They like to know that somebody cares about how their day was.”
Even with all the different routes Mestas covers, customers recognize her. And they’re about to start recognizing her even more. Mestas is enjoying some notoriety these days as the new face of Metro Transit's operator recruitment campaign. Mestas said Heywood Garage Manager Jay Kluge recommended her for the campaign because she's "always smiling, always happy and always friendly."
Images of Mestas behind the wheel have just started rolling out on buses and in advertisements on the web, on billboards and on social media.
"My kids totally think it's cool," Mestas said. "I think it's fun and I'm glad they picked me."
Operator at a glance
Hired: October 2008
Routes: P.M. Extra Board driver, some express routes, but mostly all the local routes out of Heywood Garage, including routes 5, 19, 22, 10, 18
Hobbies: Bingo, hanging out with friends and family
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