When Richard Kasprzak visited the unemployment office for help finding a job, the woman he met threw up her hands and declared the then 23-year-old needed to go back to school. Instead of taking that advice, he left the office, immediately found a payphone and called the Metropolitan Transit Commission to ask about applying for a job as a part-time bus operator. It wasn’t quite what he'd had in mind but the job had been recommended by a longtime neighbor who happened to know a thing about transit: Fred T. Heywood, who led the agency’s first service development department and would later become the namesake for a new Minneapolis garage and office. Kasprzak would spend the next decade as a bus operator and another 23 years in bus maintenance and material management. By the end of his career, Kasprzak estimated he’d held more than 100 different assignments, the kind of variety that kept him engaged throughout his three decades in transit.
As a bus operator, Kasprzak worked at every garage except for Ruter and spent most of his time at South and old Snelling, where he could take the bus to and from work. While he had to sacrifice many of his nights and weekends, Kasprzak enjoyed driving and never had any accidents. The longer he stayed, though, the more he realized he needed to find a new challenge. He considered starting a new career in electronics or real estate but ultimately decided to go back to school and pursue a career in bus maintenance. He spent three years going to school full time and acquiring skills as a cleaner and helper. He enjoyed the work, but as graduation approached he was offered a job as a stockkeeper. The job had long intrigued him, and he had some previous delivery experience, so he took the gig.
As a stockkeeper, Kasprzak spent time at each garage and in a variety of roles. He enjoyed the constant changes and the opportunity to meet and work with people across the organization. One of his favorite jobs was as a truck driver, delivering parts to work locations throughout the Twin Cities. “You’d stop by, say hello, then be back on the road,” he said. “It made the day go by pretty quickly.” Kasprzak also enjoyed the challenge of keeping the stockroom organized and earned a reputation for being an “idea guy” who was always eager to make suggestions. He helped design and introduce a recognition program for material management employees and created a checklist that helped improve cycle counts.
In retirement, Kasprzak planned to spend more time with his son and grandchildren, old friends, biking and traveling. “I’m glad I was able to work here so long,” he said at his retirement. “We are all very lucky to have such good, stable jobs.”