2019 40 Under 40: Nikasha M. Wells

Sept. 13, 2019
Nikasha M. Wells, Senior Manager of Government Affairs & Equal Employment Officer, Palm Tran
  • One word to describe yourself: Relentless
  • Alma Mater: Florida State University, St. Thomas University
  • Favorite book: “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison 
  • Favorite TV show: “Power”
  • Favorite movie: “Silence of the Lambs” 
  • Favorite hobby(s): Traveling  
  • Fun fact about yourself: I competed in the Miss D.C. USA pageant in college.  
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): The station at Times Square in New York City. 
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): I love riding our Route 31 because it is right outside of our administrative offices and it allows me an opportunity to connect with our operators as well as our passengers. 

Nikasha M. Wells worked in government relations for two decades before joining Palm Tran as the first senior manager of governmental affairs, where she brings her political savviness and her ability to connect with elected officials on both sides of the aisle.

In her role she oversees the legislative aspect of over $25 million in state and federal grant funding Palm Tran receives annually. She’s Palm Tran’s liaison with its governing body, Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners, Federal Transit Administration, Florida Department of Transportation, Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency and all 39 municipalities in Palm Beach County. 

She’s also responsible for the development of Palm Tran’s state and federal legislative priorities and frequently attends sessions to advocate for various appropriation requests. Most recently this included a $2 million appropriation request for Palm Tran’s Transportation Disadvantaged Program.

As the Senior Manager of Governmental Affairs, she’s had a pivotal role in some of Palm Tran’s most premier projects during her tenure. She had a leadership role in the board approval process for Palm Tran’s first system-wide overhaul of our routes and bus stops in over 22 years with the Route Performance Maximization Project. This project netted a cost-savings of over $5 million that was reinvested back into the system. 

She was also co-lead on the development and implementation of Palm Tran’s first federally-mandated Transit Asset Management (TAM) Plan for a fleet of 169 buses and the four facilities throughout Palm Beach County. Due to her leadership and tenacity, Palm Tran was one of the few transit properties in the region to implement the TAM Plan by the federal deadline, which has served as a template for other properties.   

She utilized her political prowess to assist Palm Tran in implementing a pilot transportation project in the Glades region of Palm Beach County, a severely economically depressed rural area. The region’s transportation needs are critical and she helped to secure funding from the Florida Department of Transportation to provide a much-needed circulator service to residents of the area.      

She also serves as Palm Tran’s Equal Employment Officer for over 630 employees. Her ten years of experience as an employment litigator equipped her to handle this role, taking great care to ensure a fair and equal workplace for all employees. She prides herself on a “zero tolerance” approach to harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Since taking the helm as the Equal Employment Officer, and under the leadership of the executive director, Palm Tran has tripled the number of women in leadership positions in the organization and significantly increased the number of minorities in mid-level management.  

She has worked closely with Palm Tran’s Organizational Development department to ensure that all employees have opportunities for advancement in the organization. Among her more notable accomplishments, she was recently nominated as an emerging leader at the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials 49th annual training conference in Tampa, Florida. She also was recently selected for Leadership Palm Beach County as one of only 56 individuals chosen for a rigorous year-long leadership development program.

“I am excited about the opportunity to go to work everyday and help the thousands of people who use our service everyday to access school, job opportunities and leisure activities. There is no greater sense of accomplishment than to be able to help so many people.”

“I appreciate being able to see the fruits of my labor everyday in both the people who ride our service and in the operators that make our service run so smoothly. My job requires that I serve our external customers as well as our internal customers and to me, they are equally as important.”

“Ensuring that I stay on top of all the local, state and federal legislation that could adversely impact our transit system is always a challenge. There is not one central repository for information so I have to make sure I stay connected to all of the different legislative bodies, as well as various organizations like APTA and COMTO to stay attuned to information pertinent to my organization.”