The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

December 23, 2012

The hand that rolls the buses

Garnet Mooney gets schoolkids where they need to go — safely

While most Raleigh County school children are sleeping tight in their beds, Transportation Department secretary Garnet Mooney is up at 3 a.m. preparing to dispatch 125 morning buses, just like she has for the past 50 years.

Secretary Julia Shrewsbury, who arrives at the transportation department around 9 a.m., stressed the importance of Mooney’s role: “Hers is the hand that runs the transportation department.”

When Mooney arrives no later than 5 a.m. the phones are already ringing as she touches base with drivers and hands out routes to substitute drivers and special education aides as needed.

“The job can be stressful but I don’t let it bother me. I just let it roll off. You can only do the best you can,” Mooney shared.

Gary Daniel, transportation director, said in the two years he has worked with Mooney she has never once taken a sick day or arrived late.

And it isn’t just her supervisor who expresses his gratitude for her steadfastness.

Bus drivers coming in after midday runs told The Register-Herald “She’s a great lady” and “I think the world of her.”

While she still works dispatching buses, doing payroll, assigning substitute drivers — the job she first started doing in 1962 — she explained that many things over the years have changed.

“I started back in the good old days. Everything we did was on a manual typewriter, an adding machine or with pen and pencil and we would cut stencils to do letters,” she said.

She joked that everyone thought computers would eliminate or decrease paperwork but today she has three times the amount she did in the ’60s.

“Of course today we have so much more stuff going on with more school functions, midday trips, more sports,” she explained.

And bus drivers, who used to be mainly farmers, had more authority to deal with discipline problems without copious amounts of paperwork, she said.

For many it’s hard to imagine school bus drivers without radios or cell phones.

And while there are two secretaries at the transportation department today, she was the only one for more than 30 years.

Daniel said Mooney is a valuable member of the department.

“She has a pleasant personality and is one of the most dedicated employees I have ever worked with,” he said.

“It’s amazing that she has been at her job longer than I have been alive.”

Mooney has seen eight transportation directors come and go but has never even thought of retiring herself.

“People tell me I should write a book,” she said, alluding to the many stories she has accumulated over the years.

So far, taking time off for book writing is not yet in the cards for her, but it’s a sure bet she’ll be back in the office at 5 a.m. after Christmas break making sure Raleigh County’s 9,000 students get transported where they need to go safely.

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