Kathy Beck joined the FREDericksburg Regional Transit as a part-time administrative assistant a few months after the bus service started in December 1996.
By 2001, she had become FRED's director of public transit.
Her 12-year run as the head of the regional bus system will soon end, though. Beck, only the second director FRED has ever had, plans to retire on Dec. 11.
Beck announced her retirement in an email to the Public Transit Advisory Board this week. She wrote that her husband has a job offer that will take them to Tampa, Fla.
"With the help of all of you, FRED Transit has come a long way!" she wrote in her email.
FRED started in a 1950s-era gas station along U.S. 1 with four routes and five buses. In its first full year of operation, FRED carried nearly 98,000 passengers.
Now FRED has 30 buses and runs 19 routes — plus two VRE commuter rail feeder runs — in Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, Spotsylvania and Caroline. Its operates on an annual budget of about $4.9 million. In fiscal year 2013, Beck wrote, ridership was 530,690. The previous year, when buses still served King George County, FRED handled more than 547,000 rider trips.
Beck became the system's interim director in October 2001 when FRED's first manager, Rebecca Martin, took a job with a transit agency in Blacksburg. The city soon appointed Beck its full-time director, after a national search.
She subsequently oversaw the transit system's expansion into Stafford, Caroline and King George counties.
For years she's been a tireless supporter of the transit-dependent, urging localities to financially support FRED not because it serves a majority of the local population, but because it serves those who often have no other way to get around.
Her advocacy for FRED often made meetings between Beck and local boards of elected officials contentious. Frustrated with a lack of support, she actually attempted to resign in August 2005, but was urged to stay.
That same year, Beck oversaw FRED's temporary move to a facility at Princess Anne and Hunter streets while its 1,100-square-foot concrete-block building on U.S. 1 was replaced with a 7,000-square-foot modern station.
When the new building, known as the Lawrence A. Davies Transit Center, opened in the fall of 2007, Beck called it "a great gateway for Fredericksburg," noting with a wink that it was also the first time FRED had reliable heating, A/C and sewer service.
She said the bus station was one of the highlights of her tenure.
Beck also pointed out the soon-to-be-completed maintenance and training facility in the Spotsylvania County Industrial Park off of Routes 2 and 17 as another important milestone for FRED.
"I have truly enjoyed my time at FRED and working with all of you on the Public Transit Advisory Board," Beck said in her latest email. "The friendships that I have made over the past 16 years are very dear to me and I will miss everyone."
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436
Copyright 2013 - The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.