The former No. 4 at the FBI who spurned retirement to take up a job as a school bus driver says he feels like he is doing important work.
Mike Mason, 63, reached the rank of executive assistant of the FBI, overseeing the bureau’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch during a 23-year career in law enforcement.
There he estimates he oversaw about half of the FBI’s operational resources.
After retiring from the FBI in 2007 he worked for Verizon as the telco’s chief security officer until he retired again in 2020.
Mr Mason initially planned on leading a quiet retirement, but after reading about a chronic shortage of bus drivers in Chesterfield County, Virginia, in January, he decided to send in his CV.
‘I’m smiling every day I start that bus up,’ says Mike Mason
School shutdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic saw thousands of bus drivers retire or quit their jobs, many complaining of low morale, pay and poor conditions.
Mr Mason, who was also a captain in the Marines prior to joining the FBI, said he felt compelled to help out.
“When the pandemic struck there were so many people that were doing so many extra things,” he added to WTVR.
“People like you who still have to get out here. People like grocery store workers. People like telecommunications workers. All kinds of folks who still had to do their job.”
“I still had a mind and I still had things I was capable of doing,” he said.
He sent in his résumé, and received a perplexed message from the Chesterfield County Public School District asking why he wanted to become a driver.
“I actually got called by a very senior person in the county and he said, ‘Just checking, why do you want to be a bus driver?’ And I told him,” Mr Mason said.
He started his job picking up schoolkids in April, and now takes nine students aged 10 to 18 to the Faison Center in Richmond, which offers programmes to autistic children, each weekday.
He examines the school bus each day before getting behind the wheel, to make sure it’s in safe working order.
“I feel the same sense of duty,” he told the Washington Post.
“This is not hyperbole: I’m smiling every day I start that bus up.”