"I was farming at the time, in the dairy business milking cows, which is a very demanding occupation," Kennard says. Buckner asked if he wanted to go full time. "I told him I would try it and so I did and I've been here ever since.
"The farming economy took an about turn; it was great to have a second income for my family and so it's just grown from there." Kennard says that being a people person is part of why he has enjoyed being in transportation. "I interact with people, I do what they want to do. I am a Mississippi State alumnus, I have been there for all my life, that's my school, that's my heart, that's my family.
"Our goal is to save the university 12 to 20 percent on their travel and to give them better service than they can get in the area." He adds, "You're got to have every piece of travel at that school. Sixty percent of what we do is athletics and 39 percent are class field trips; you?re got to have that to make this thing go."
Eventually the '79 bus was sold and they now have four units. Last year they had an idea they wanted to try, and that was to fulfill a lot of requests from some of his groups for a sleeper bus. Kennard explains they took one bus and converted it into a unit that's decked out with surround sound, flat screens, leather couches, dinette tables and all of it folds up into 24 bunks for sleeping in.
Tough Economic Times
When asked what their biggest challenge is, without hesitation, the answer for both was "budget."
Harris says, "No question, it's always about the budget.
"The way our budget situation is, we have no student fee that supports the transportation system on campus." He explains further, "Shuttle services is a subsidiary of parking management so what we do is we rent our shuttles out by the hour to various departments and organizations off campus and that generates approximately two-thirds off our budget." The shuttles are rented out for football games and for various events. He says the other third of the budget is supplemented through their parking operations.
To generate revenue Harris explains they have internal advertising on the shuttles. "We try to expand our advertising options out there so that can generate us additional funds for the revenue stream.
"Of course we've expanded our fleets so that we have more vehicles to rent and the rentals have certainly increased. Every year they've increased because it?s such an economical thing to do for a fraternity or a sorority or an organization on campus having an event." He adds, "I think expanding our rental program has probably been key to offsetting some of the cost and the advertising aspect of it has helped as well."
Kennard agrees on the budget woes. "Our university has undergone two huge budget cuts. The good thing is, I think we're important more now than ever because we can save this school travel money.
"We've got a philosophy here and we've always built on this, we're going to save this university money and we're going to do a better job than anywhere else."
Expanding for the Future
Looking to the future, Harris sees potential in providing expanded transportation services for the students. Working with the city to do some expanded routes to help students get to campus, alleviating parking issues, is something he would like to see. "I think that would go along with a lot of the sustainability things we?re trying to implement, and of course carpooling and those types of things, it's all a part of that as well." Harris adds, "I think the future's going to bring some expansion on our part into the community."