By WIll Reisman, @Will Reisman
When Clementine Llenado reports to work as a radio controller at SamTrans, she’s doing more than just dispatching buses and managing schedules. She’s attending a mini-family reunion.
Clementine’s mother, May Arana, is a bus operator at SamTrans, as is her aunt, Julie David, and her cousin, Baron David (Julie’s son.) Baron works at SamTrans’ South Base facility in San Carlos, while Clementine, Julie and May all work at the North Base site in South San Francisco, although May recently went on medical leave to recover from hip surgery. All four of the family members joined the SamTrans team between 2000 and 2003.
“It’s nice working with my family because we get to catch up, but also because we all know each other’s schedule, so we can help each other outside of work, whether it’s with babysitting or some other things,” said Clementine, who was promoted to radio controller in April, after 11 ½ years at SamTrans. “Plus, we have different enough schedules, so we don’t get on each other’s nerves.”
While Clementine’s experience is a bit of an extreme case, there are plenty of other examples of families working together at the San Mateo County Transit District.
Eva Goode, a manager of budgets for capital programs, followed in the footsteps of her father, Howard, whose lengthy career at the District spanned several different roles, including the chief development officer. Although Howard officially retired in 2005, he worked part-time for the next two years, allowing him to cross paths with Eva, who joined the District in 2006. Eva said she didn’t interact frequently with Howard while at work, but, as a newcomer to the District, she relied on her father for valuable institutional knowledge.
“It was great getting insight from him on some historical projects and documents,” said Eva. “He had personal familiarity on some of the major undertakings we’ve pursued here, so he was able to put those experiences into context for some of our current plans.”
Like Eva Goode, Leslie Fong grew up with a parent who was an institutional bedrock at the District. Her mother, Donna, joined SamTrans in the 1970s and worked until 2012, when she succumbed to a lengthy battle with breast cancer. In memoriam of her time at the District, a second-floor meeting room was renamed the Donna Fong Conference Center.
Leslie said that her mother always spoke kindly of her fellow co-workers and related positive experiences of her time at SamTrans. However, she never tried to coerce her daughter into applying for a job at the District.
“She kept her work life very separate from her personal life,” said Leslie. “So it wasn’t like she put a lot of pressure on me to start working here. We kept a pretty formal work experience when we were here together, but it was definitely nice to see her and be around her at work, especially the last few years.”
It’s not just employees who maintain their parents’ commitment to SamTrans. Jeff Gee, chair of the SamTrans’ Board of Directors, learned about the agency at the foot of his father, Dick, who retired as Deputy General Manager of Planning and Engineering in 1994. Dick was instrumental in developing SamTrans during its infancy, as he helped to start the facility operations at North and South Base and led the effort to purchase the old Eureka Federal Savings Bank, which currently acts as District headquarters.
“When I first submitted my application to sit on the SamTrans board, my dad was very proud,” said Gee. “And he wanted to be there, in the audience, when I was named chair of the board this year. Even though he retired more than a decade ago, he definitely still keeps tabs on everything that’s happening here.”
There are other examples of families working together at SamTrans other than the aforementioned ones. And with the positive experiences that many of these employees have at the District, the next generation of workers could be coming soon.
Although she doesn’t have kids yet, Leslie Fong said she would certainly recommend SamTrans as a career alternative to her children.
“My mom started this stuff, it’s in our blood,” said Leslie. “So, yeah, you want to carry on the torch, keep the tradition.”