June 16, 2016 10:00 AM, EDT

Dale Mossey: From Judge to Trucker to Bus Driver

The kid that the dog bit turned into an attorney, and then into a judge.

The judge became an over-the-road trucker at age 65 and is morphing into a Metro Bus driver at 70.

It’s a winding road, and a highly unorthodox career path.

Dale Mossey fully realizes that — and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m doing it because I want to do it. It’s another learning experience that I’m not going to pass up,” said Mossey, a Clearwater resident who very likely has the most diverse resume ever assembled by a St. Cloud bus driver.

“Think about doing something different,” he said. “If it’s going to be your last job, choose something you want to do.”

Driving a Metro Bus is what Mossey really wants to do, and this might be his final job.

Then again, it might not. Mossey is anything but predictable, as evidenced by his switch from Minnesota 10th Judicial District judge to truck driver in 2011.

“It was like ‘man bites dog,’ ” said St. Cloud attorney John Lund, who litigated several cases before  Mossey. “Truckers aspire to be judges. Most judges don’t aspire to be truckers.”

Most judges aren’t Dale Mossey, who invariably follows his own road map.

“I’ve always thought I loved the job I’m in,” Mossey said with his omnipresent grin. “And then six months later, I’m thinking about what’s next.”

He always has followed his dreams, no matter how unusual the route might seem.

He’s following his latest one in a bus.

Trainers at Metro Bus have worked with applicants from a variety of backgrounds, but Mossey is the first who used to make his living banging a gavel in a courthouse.

“We’ve had people that have had a career in law enforcement,” said Tom Cruikshank, chief operations and planning officer at Metro Bus, “but not from that side of the bench.”

And yet, the segue from judge to trucker to bus driver makes some sense in Mossey’s case.

“I really am a people person,” said Mossey, an affable extrovert with an infectious laugh. “I can hardly wait every day to meet someone I’ve never met.”

In that regard, Metro Bus is a perfect match.

“We often say in our business that we’d rather hire somebody with a good attitude,” Cruikshank said. “We can teach 'em how to drive.”

“Customer service is a huge piece of what we do,” said Metro Bus trainer Jerry Gilman, who oversaw Mossey’s recently completed training for his commercial driver license.

“That’s something you can’t teach — you either have it or you don’t,” Gilman said. “And Dale has it.”

He also has made some unusual stops along his winding career path.

Mossey’s first career choice was instigated by an aggressive cocker spaniel.

“I wanted to be a lawyer after I got bit by a dog in sixth grade,” said Mossey, who grew up in St. Louis Park. “[Dad] said, ‘I’ll call the mayor — he’s a lawyer, he’ll know what to do.

“So, I went down to his office. This was kinda nice. He had a nice car. He had a great view.”

Mossey graduated from Grinnell College in 1968 and from University of Minnesota Law School in 1973. He spent the next 15 years as a personal injury attorney in St. Cloud.

“I really liked being a lawyer,” Mossey said, “but the times were different then. It’s not like it used to be.”

He was appointed to his position as Minnesota 10th Judicial District judge for Wright County in 1988 by Gov. Rudy Perpich.

“I thought he was a good judge,” Lund said, “and he was a judge for a long damn time.”

Mossey checked his pension and Social Security status, and at age 65 acted on his impulse.

“I took early retirement,” he said. “I wanted to — for my next career step."

Not everyone understood his radical lifestyle change.

“The look of shock on people’s faces — especially other attorneys,” said Carol Mossey, Dale’s wife of 35 years. “When they asked me about Dale and I’d tell them what he was doing, their mouths just dropped."

Mossey had all the money he needed. He also had the support of his family, so he enrolled in a trucking class at Century College.

“Here’s the class: Me, a minister, a guy with two master’s degrees in business, and the other four were kids,” Mossey said.

“None of  [the kids] are still driving trucks. The kid with the double masters, he’s still driving.”

Mossey graduated and hit the road, even though it seems far more likely to find a truck driver dreaming of being a judge.

“They shouldn’t,” he said. “There’s a lot more stories out on the track. I’ll tell you some.”

For Mossey, the pros of truck driving involved the freedom of the open road. The cons involved just about everything else.

“It wasn’t anything like I expected, really,” said Mossey, who has driven about 3.5 million miles. “I liked driving the truck, but that’s a small part of it.”

After five years, the travel and homesickness got to him.

“I missed my wife. I could hardly wait to get home,” he said. “I’d be gone an average of 10 days at a time, and the last two days the only thing I thought was how fast I could get home.”

And so, at age 70, it was time for another change.

In the back of his mind, Mossey always thought about driving a city bus as his last job.

But being a Metro Bus driver isn’t easy. According to Mossey, it’s far more demanding than driving an 18-wheeler.

“Bus drivers don’t ever relax,” he said. “It’s not like Ralph Kramden [Jackie Gleason's bellicose bus-driver role in "The Honeymooners"].

“If you don’t believe in safety, don’t come here.”