April 06 -- OTTUMWA -- Nine days in, Diane Gawronski is getting into the groove of transit in southeast Iowa.
Gawronski, the new executive director of Ottumwa Transit and 10/15 Transit, said two groups are at the top of her list: passengers and employees.
As she transitions into her new position, Gawronski has started an employee newsletter to keep all employees up to date on what's happening in the department.
"I believe no matter what anybody's particular job is, we are a team and everybody should have the right to know daily operations," she said.
Even small things, like starting a monthly birthday celebration — at her own expense — for every employee's birthday in that month, will help create a team atmosphere.
"I think it's important for employees to feel as though they are an important part of the organization," she said.
And since the staff and bus drivers have more tenure than she does, she's trying to meet with every single person one-on-one to hear what changes they would like to see occur and where there are opportunities for improvement.
Next on her to-do list is to team up with Operations Manager Dave Silverio to ride every single bus route in the city.
"For me, it is going to help me see what actual routes there are since I'm new to Ottumwa," she said. "And we're going to look at ridership numbers."
After reviewing 10/15 Transit, she also said there are opportunities to increase its service in its 11-county area.
"It will hopefully be a win-win situation," she said. "We'll be offering more services for those riders and it will also increase our ridership, which is good for us."
A concern she's heard throughout the community is that when people see buses going by, they're never full.
"Not every bus is going to be full every ride," she said. "I would compare that to when you go to a movie theater or restaurant; they're never all full either and yet we need those services, as well. I'm not so much interested in filling the buses to capacity as I am providing a needed service."
The department is still evaluating its ridership numbers, as the one-year anniversary of the state and federal investigation of Ottumwa Transit's illegal charters and inflated ridership numbers is approaching.
"I'm hesitant to comment on [ridership numbers] because I don't know how to compare it to previous numbers," she said.
While Gawronski said she can't answer to events she never witnessed, she will make herself available for questions.
"I can only apologize for whatever's happened in the past," she said. "I'm asking the transit employees as well as the community to please move forward in a positive manner."
"It's time to get over it. It's been almost a year. It's time to move on."
Copyright 2012 - Ottumwa Courier, Iowa