It was a long, rigorous process with 175 candidates to pick from. But it was with a unanimous vote that the next APTA president and CEO as of November first is Michael Melaniphy, formerly vice president public sector for bus manufacturer Motor Coach Industries Inc.
Melaniphy said the people on the committee represwented a diverse cross section of our industry and they came together strong with a cohesive, professional process. “It was so robust,” he said. “It was extremely rigorous; you had to be on your game.
“I was humbled, honored and blessed that the selection committee did select me unanimously; the board of director vote was unanimous as well,” he continued. “I’m humbled by that by also very grateful. We have a tremendous amount of work to do here and having an association that is unified in their vision and their support of their leadership that is excellent for us. We’re all moving in the same direction.”
Bill Millar is retiring after 15 years as APTA president. Melaniphy said of Millar, “I have great admiration for Bill; I’ve been friends with him for many, many years.”
Speaking to taking over Millar’s position, Melaniphy said, “I can’t go in and be Bill and that’s the fundamental thing.
“I think I have a pretty good handle on Bill’s style; he’s not exactly a quiet person. But I’ve also had the opportunity to have quiet lunches with him and get his perspective on things so I know I go in to this ring with Bill’s support and it means a lot to me.”
There’s a lot on the table for the transit industry at this time and Melaniphy is ready to move forward.
“I think it’s certainly a challenging time, but that’s OK. If we didn’t have those challenges, it wouldn’t be as exciting.
He stressed, “It just means we have to get our message out there and be creative and work with our members and leverage the strength we have with our members.
“At the end of the day, we have a great story to tell. We’ve been doing public-private partnerships for years, we’ve been doing things that are more cost-effective in helping to deliver other services, whether it’s healthcare or access to activities in communities.
“By providing the connectivity that we do in a cost-effective way, we’re providing a lot of the solutions that some of the more vocal voices on the Hill are seeking. And we’re green, and we’re efficient, and we serve Republicans and Democrats, alike. It’s a great message.
Having been in the industry for more than 23 years, Melaniphy said, “We’ve been here before,” regarding the state of funding.
“People forget some of the best funding we got was during the Reagan era.
“If your message is solid, if it resonates and you can craft your message to be in harmony with the tone and tenor of what they’re seeking, that’s the base of your platform.
Melaniphy has been involved in different facets in his transit career and is looking forward to working with a diverse membership.
“I’ve been in so many of the different roles that our members are and because of that, I appreciate where they’re at; I know what they’re challenges are. I faced some of the same challenges as a transit agency manager, as a private sector manager, trying to get information out of APTA or the Hill or the DOT.
“In many cases, I’ve been where you are. I have an appreciation for that and I’m going to carry the water for you and make sure we all get there together.
As we go through these challenging times as an industry, Melaniphy explained why the membership is so critical to the organization and the industry. “At the end of the day, the voice of many always speaks louder than the voice of one. While we have great lobbyists that work within the organization who do an excellent job representing us on the Hill, it’s the members voice that is heard the strongest on the Hill. It is the voice of the agency that your congressman represents that matters. That resonates in ways that we can never do.
“It’s not cost-effective for many agencies to have a full-time lobbyist in D.C. It’s very cost-effective for them to have us. The more voices we have, the more cohesive we are.”
And if you’re new to attending APTA conferences, he suggested, “Raise your hand.
“For years I was the guy in the back of the room that went to the meetings and kept waiting to get called on and didn’t. It took me quite awhile to realize, you have to raise your hand. There will be a lot of people to come help you and guide you.”