Top 40 Under 40 2013: Rosa Ena Villarreal

With more than 16 years of Public Administration experience, Rosa Ena Villarreal began her public transportation career in 2010 with the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority as the human resources manager and was quickly promoted to the director of tansportation to lead a team of more than 100 employees. Soon after, Villarreal was advanced to her current position as managing director of operations and now oversees transportation, mobility management, eligibility, vehicle maintenance, facilities maintenance and materials management.

During her first year as director of transportation, Villarreal was able to solve an issue many transit agencies face throughout the United States: staffing. She revitalized the recruiting methods, processes, screening and interview processes. She then updated the training process to include a mentoring program where she matched a newly hired employee with a member of the executive staff. This pairing helped build relationships and unveil the many opportunities available in the public transportation industry.

Villarreal is and has been committed to advancing this industry forward. She is an active member in the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Bus and Paratransit Committee and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). She has participated in the ENO Mid-Level Manager Seminar, the National Transit Institute (NTI) Transit Academy and the Texas Transit Institute Leadership Class.

Villarreal recently graduated with her Master’s degree in public administration from Texas A&M – University Corpus Christi. Continuing her passion for public transportation, she completed her capstone thesis on “Rider and User Evaluation of CCRTA Wheelchair Securement Systems on Fixed-Route Buses.” Villarreal concluded that the effectiveness and safety of the wheelchair securement system could be improved with additional training because of the growing size of motorized wheelchairs and the increasing population of people with disabilities. She took this opportunity to partner with manufacturers of wheelchair securement systems and provide the training necessary for passengers and operators.

“I love that my job is different every day. Transit operations encompasses so many different areas that I find myself always at the edge of my seat. I never know what challenges my day might bring, so I come to work excited and ready. Whether it’s making sure all of our buses pull out of the yard on time or working with our maintenance team to keep our fleet healthy, I enjoy being part of what makes our transit system run. Who would have thought the sight of a shiny new bus would bring me so much excitement?”

“Unlike most of my peers, I did not grow up in transit. I came from municipal government into transit thinking it would be a short-term job for me. I was fortunate enough to work under a great CEO and mentor who began teaching me that there was more to public transportation than I thought. I remember speaking to him one day and he asked me where I saw myself in the future. When I couldn’t answer, he said, ‘Have you ever thought of becoming a Transit CEO?’

“I do believe this was a defining moment for me. I began to look at transit from a different perspective. From that day forward, I knew transit would be where I would spend the rest of my career.

“I’ve always enjoyed working in [the] public sector. But working in the public transit industry is even more rewarding because our services allow the public to be independent. We get people to work, to school and to medical appointments. When I get on one of our buses, I love to watch the people. Every once in a while a rider will walk by and notice my ID badge and say ‘Thank You.’ That is only one of the reasons I love what I do.

“These last few years have brought so many blessings that I decided last year to become more active in my Catholic faith. I joined a retreat team at my church and began helping to mentor and guide the youth in our parish. It is amazing what a difference you can make in someone’s life simply by paying attention to them. I initially began this hobby thinking I would be helping others, but I quickly discovered that it was definitely a two-way streak. My involvement with this group gives back more than I could ever give to it."