Through the WTS Policy Seminar, WTS strives to generate the conversation feeding knowledge back into the organizations. The Policy Seminar was initiated last year and its subject was the relationship between the environmental and energy issues. “We’ve created a lot of interesting dialogue,” James says of it.
Most importantly, James finds the organization personally inspiring. “When I go to hear women like Mary Peters, Marion Blakey, Jane Chmielinski, Marcy Schwartz, the list is endless; they’ve just been incredible role models personally.” She emphasizes, “The opportunity to engage with people of that caliber is something you really can’t put a price tag on.”
South West Transit Association
Kristen Joyner started in transportation working at the Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) and, as she says, “Everybody will tell you that when you get into transit, you don’t really know you’re going to love it and it gets in your blood and you can’t leave it.” Joyner says instead of a linear, “point-A-to-point-B” resume, hers looks more like a constellation. But it is the experiences from the places she’s been that translate into the skill sets she uses in her position as the executive director of the South West Transit Association (SWTA).
After CATA she went to work for Circle Communication out of Arkansas as a consultant for them. She focused on nonprofit board development, worked on the event side, the fund-raising side of nonprofit organizations. She also worked as a national professional development trainer for Fred Pryor/Career Track Seminars, traveling the country training management principles and organization principles while also working with nonprofit boards. “All three of those major pieces in my life — working in transit, doing nonprofit board development and learning about membership development, and going out and actually doing the training myself, going from hotel to hotel and setting up a training session — were big pieces of what helped me here at SWTA. Those are three major pieces for what SWTA is all about.” She adds, “All of those skill sets have come together for this position and I’m just really passionate about public transportation and happy to be back in this industry.”
SWTA is a 28-year-old organization across eight states consisting of transit providers of all sizes: rural, small, urban and large urban organizations, as well as the people that service the public transportation provider. “SWTA is here to serve our membership through education resources, communicating to our membership what’s happening on the national level and disseminating the information,” says Joyner.
A big component is the information training opportunities it provides. She says the state associations provide many training opportunities for driver training or technical skills; SWTA looks for unique opportunities to provide. She emphasizes, “Our training is a more managerial focus,” providing training for general managers, planners and the procurement folks. She adds, “We fill a niche for the rural and small transit operators that they might not have access to.”
She explains the evolution SWTA has gone through. “When it first began, the organization was heavily focused on pay-to-say, the lobbying interests, focused very much on the national picture and how the SWTA region fit into the regional national legislative issue.” She continues, “Then it became more training-focused in its middle years and now, we’ve struck a balance between the two. I think that over the last year, and moving forward, we are going to have a very good balance of legislative coupled with the training and the communication effort.
“There is an expectation from a lot of the membership that we should be involved in their state legislative issues, and that’s really where state associations fill the niche. I see SWTA as the bridge between the state and the national,” she says. She explains that there are issues that the Southwest region deals with that are unique to the rest of the United States, and that’s where SWTA comes in to play.