“I did not choose the union life. The union life chose me,” said retired Big Blue Bus Driver Kelester Jackson.
After 31 years of service, Jackson decided it was time to throw in the towel to his long-lived career as a bus driver.
He first began as a bus driving in Dallas, Texas and participated in the 1980 bus strike. Unfortunately he ended up losing his job and decided the next best move would be to travel to Los Angeles, California.
“I came to California Christmas morning in 1982 and nothing was working out,” said Jackson. “I ended up homeless on Skid Row until 1983.”
After a year on the streets Jackson was able to secure housing with the help of Los Angeles County. It did not take him long to start a new job as a school bus driver. When summer came around he had the opportunity to drive as a food delivery man for the 1984 Olympic athletes.
Once the Olympics finished he went on to work for Big Blue Bus.
“I started at Big Blue Bus on January 20th, 1985,” said Jackson.
So what made Jackson stay at BBB for 31 years?
He refers to the famous quote, “Leave the place better then you found it.” He described BBB as a company that had racism within and a huge lack of respect for many of the employees. He saw the environment of the company as a challenge, a challenge for him to make a difference and help better the company.
Jackson believes he made a difference at the company, and has become a mentor to many of the drivers as well as management.
With his time at BBB, Jackson takes pride in having created the route safety check. The route safety check allows drivers to talk to management about any issues they are encountering. Drivers then take management out on the bus through the route to show them any issues that occur.
He explains this procedure is meant for the drivers because in the past it was extremely difficult to get management to listen to the drivers’ problems.
He commitment to his career did not stop there.
Every bus driver wants a clean driving record, and Jackson was nearly perfect. For the past 15 years he has only one chargeable act, meaning he was held responsible for one accident. With a good driving record like Jackson, it motivates and gives bus drivers a chance to compete in the Bus Rodeo.
“Every year there is a Bus Rodeo, an annual bus driving competition where drivers all over the country have the opportunity to participate,” said Jackson. “I got to compete and take home the trophy.”
He competed in the bus rodeo in 2012, 2013, and 2017, but took the trophy in 2013.
Jackson takes pride in his driving record and 31 years of commitment for BBB. He explains the most valuable lesson he takes from his experience is his love and passion for providing service to the local community.
As an officially retired man, Jackson has said he will dedicate his time to the church, the youth who are juvenile detention centers and assist the homeless. Hoping to help them get back on their feet and teach them about the transportation service.
Jennie Campos, Transit Community Engagement Officer, explains Big Blue Bus is happy to have an employee like Jackson and hope to have more. The company is currently recruiting a number of drivers who want to serve the local community. There is no training necessary, just excellent customer service.
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