Depending upon where you live, there’s a good chance you saw a school bus today. Maybe even more than one.
According to people who track these things, there are over 480,000 on the road each weekday, shuttling over 26 million students to and from school. There’s also a nationwide shortage of drivers – the lingering effect of COVID and the genuinely grueling nature of the assignment.
Many of these drivers work multiple jobs, the reality of a split shift and wages that require supplemental income. And then there are people like Michael Mason, a retired Special Agent with the FBI, who actually rose in the ranks to being fourth in command with the agency.
Mike Mason was a captain in the United States Marine Corps before joining the FBI in 1984. After retired from the Bureau in 2007, he took a senior executive position with Verizon, where he retired from in 2020. But just as he was settling into a slower pace, he learned of the need for 125 bus drivers in his hometown of Chesterfield County, Va. He applied – and soon heard from a senior leader in the district, making sure his application was legitimate.
He was quickly hired to drive a bus for students with special needs.
“I believe if all of us gave a little something, wow — how we could impact this world!” he said. “I think in our society, we need to get next to the idea that there are no unimportant jobs.”
Michael Mason’s story has been featured on CBS, CNN and in the Washington Post.
“Half of loving your work is the attitude you bring to it,” he says – a sentiment that he’s demonstrated throughout his career.
Mr. Mason stepped down from his job this past summer, but I spoke with a representative from Chesterfield School District earlier today. “His story has inspired so many people,” she told me. “The kids love him. The parents love him. Everybody loves him.”
The feelings are mutual.
“If I’m rich in anything,” Mike Mason once told Anderson Cooper, “It’s mentors, it’s coaches, it’s teachers. I had some wonderful people in my life pushing me to excel throughout my life. I am so grateful to them.”
On the occasion of the FBI celebrating the agency’s hiring of their first black agent, James Wormly Jones, Mason reflected on the positive side of policing and service:
“I like to think that for every bad incident that happens, I could tell you about a hundred good incidents that happen, a hundred good things that police officers have done,” he said. “Black, white, Hispanic, brown, Native American, you name it. And at the end of the day, if we’re going to want this country to be a safe place, an inclusive place, a place that respects civil rights and all the legislation that was passed in 1968, then we have to be a part of that. You can’t be a spectator and say, okay when the attitude and when the environment gets right and receptive and embraces me, then I’ll come in. No, you’ve got to come in and make it that kind of environment. I want to see people with more of a warrior spirit, quite frankly.”
The nation would be a better place if there were more men like retired FBI Special Agent – and retired bus driver – Michael Mason.