By Matt Thompson
PERRYSBURG, Ohio — Former Perrysburg Police Chief Rick Gilts recently has found himself "back out on the streets."
Retired since 2009, Mr. Gilts stepped forward as a part-time substitute driver for Perrysburg Schools after hearing that the district is desperate for drivers.
"It has been something I've enjoyed beyond what I expected, and it is a need the schools had," said Mr. Gilts, who spent 33 years with the police department and seven as chief.
The retired chief's alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m., and he arrives at the bus garage daily at 6:15 a.m. There, he warms up a bus for about 30 minutes and then drives a route for about two hours. Mr. Gilts, 59, is able to work out, have lunch, and have downtime until returning to the garage around 2:30 p.m. to take children home — or take a team to a visiting game.
He learned about the district's need for drivers via a former Perrysburg officer and friend who worked out with a district employee.
The need has gotten so great at times the district's Transportation Director Ellen Moser has had to send her mechanics out on bus routes for field trips or sporting events.
"When we have both mechanics out — that is everyone I have," she said.
The district has 33 daily route drivers and three available substitutes. Ms. Moser said she is looking for at least five more substitutes by spring. She said the problem isn't just a Perrysburg problem, but one that faces several area districts. Ms. Moser said she is concerned about the start of spring sports because that requires more bus drivers directly after school making the demand for substitute drivers higher.
"It is very helpful to have the retired chief of police. I'd like to have more retired officers," Ms. Moser said. "The position is good for someone retired."
Mr. Gilts said he enjoys the social part of driving, and "the kids are really fun." For a substitute, the routes change regularly and Mr. Gilts said he likes having to figure out the new routes and keeping things different.
He's also been very impressed by the two mechanics who keep the fleet of 40 buses operational. When he got to drive one of the new buses: "It was a dream, it operated so well."
"I drove a JV basketball team to Sylvania and they got off the bus and were thanking me and appreciated me driving the bus," Mr. Gilts said. "I really enjoyed that."
Copyright 2014 The Blade
McClatchy-Tribune News Service