“He is a role model for our students, and for all of us, really.”

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Mike Mason has been a public servant for most of his life, as a captain in the Marines and later as one of the nation's highest-ranking FBI officials.

After 23 years with the FBI, Mason left the bureau to work as an executive at Verizon. After retiring in 2020, he found himself feeling bored and unfulfilled.

"I still had a mind and I still had things I was capable of doing," the 63-year-old from Midlothian, Virginia, told Steve Hartman of CBS Evening News.

Mike Mason FBI Bus Driver
Credit: Chesterfield County Public Schools

So, Mason went where he was needed: behind the wheel of a school bus.

Like many other public-school districts across America, Mason's local schools are facing severe driver shortages. When he applied for a job last spring, Chesterfield County Public Schools were short a staggering 125 drivers.

According to Education Week, roughly half of school districts that answered a recent survey from the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) categorized their bus driver shortage as "severe" or "desperate." Approximately two-thirds reported bus driver shortages as their "number one" problem.

"I think this is important work, I do," Mason told Hartman. "I think in our society we need to get next to the idea that there are no unimportant jobs. I mean, what could be more important than the attention we pay to our education system?"

Mason told The Washington Post that he starts every day at 5:30 a.m. smiling. He picks up nine students and drops them off at the Faison Center in Richmond, an educational center for autistic children. He said he wouldn't call being a school driver "easy," but it's certainly fulfilling.

"It has increased my capacity for empathy exponentially," he said of working with special needs students. "What I've enjoyed most is making breakthroughs."

As for salary, Mason told The Washington Post that he feels "extremely grateful" to be in a financial position to donate the vast majority of it to charity.

Merv Daugherty, Chesterfield County Public Schools' superintendent, said they too are fortunate—to have Mason on their team.

"He is a role model for our students, and for all of us, really," he said.