By Jessica Lovell
Guelph’s railroad is on the hunt for a new manager as the current man in charge prepares for a retirement that’s overdue.
“I’ve worked at the city for 41 years,” says Guelph Junction Railway manager Tom Sagaski. “I’m way past due for collecting the municipal pension.”
After 35 years, the pension that municipal employees get doesn’t continue to increase. But Sagaski, now 63, says he just wasn’t ready to retire yet.
“It was very challenging running the railway,” he says, noting it was the challenge of the job that kept him coming back to it for so long.
But Sagaski, Guelph Junction’s only full-time employee, hasn’t always been running the railway. He spent about the first 30 years of his career in the engineering department before he decided he’d like to try his hand at working on the railroad.
The railway, which is owned by the City of Guelph, runs between Campbellville and the northern end of Guelph. It serves the north-west industrial area of the city and has various customers throughout the city, Sagaski says.
“It had been leased to CP and was being abandoned,” he says. But the city took it over and saw fit to invest in its infrastructure, turning it into a profitable enterprise.
“I think we’ve turned it around,” Sagaski says.
It could be tough to fill his shoes.
Sagaski is responsible for managing all the day-to-day operations of the railway, as well as dealing with customers, evaluating proposals for new business, regulatory compliance and more.
“Really, I’m the only employee,” he says. “It think that wears on you after a bit of time, too.”
A holiday isn’t really a holiday.
“You’d get a day or two and then your cellphone starts to ring,” Sagaski says.
It’s one of the things he’s most looking forward to about retirement – being able to turn the cellphone off and not having to be accessible to anybody, he says.
“I’d just like to see what it’s like to have some time off without your phone ringing,” he says.
It will still be some months before he’s completely free of the job, though.
Sagaski and the railway’s board of directors expect to review applications from his potential replacements at the end of January or early February. They hope to have a new manager hired in March, but Sagaski will stick around a while to train his replacement and to ensure there are no issues with the transition.
“I think the board is very sensitive that there be a smooth transition,” says Sagaski.
He expects it will be tough to find a replacement that can do the job as well as he has right away, so Sagaski will be available to help, popping in once a week for a few weeks just to check on things, he says.
When he does finally transition out of the job completely, he may end up back in the railway business, making use of his licence to inspect railway bridges, he says.
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By Jessica Lovell