2022 40 Under 40: Chris Mandrell

Aug. 23, 2022
Chris Mandrell, General Manager, Citibus, RATP Dev USA

One word to describe yourself: Compassionate  

Alma Mater: Texas Tech University  

Fun fact about yourself: Barbara Mandrell is a distant relative.  

Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): World Trade Center Cortlandt – the history, architecture, and mall that is connected to the subway. 

General Manager Chris Mandrell has transformed Citibus out of Lubbock, Texas. He started as the human resources manager in the company in 2008. After the previous general manager left, Mandrell interviewed for the job and became the next leader of the company. He immediately jumped into the role where he focused on bringing the company into the 21st century by investing in modern technology.  

From RT-GTSF to mobile ticketing and on-demand services, Mandrell took the antiquated services and forged a new wheel in the public transit industry. Next, he addressed the long-overdue vehicle maintenance issues. The fleet at Citibus was, on average, more than 18-years old. Mandrell knew this would be a huge feat, but after years of working with the city of Lubbock and pursuing local and federal grants, he was able to bring the average vehicle life down to 15 years the first two years into his new role and then brought it down again to an average of 10 years old after that.  

After the pandemic hit and ridership plummeted, Mandrell saw it as an opportunity to launch a microtransit service, Citibus On-Demand. A true curb-to-curb service to help bridge the gap in transit during a time of uncertainty and confusion, the new service brought ridership not only to pre-pandemic levels but then forged on to bring in passengers who hadn't used public transportation before.  

Finally, Mandrell turned his attention to company morale. After a substantial dip in employment due to the pandemic, then facing driver shortages in 2021, Mandrell found new ways to overcome the hurdles. He worked with the city of Lubbock to raise the wages of all staff to national wage averages. He then partnered with a local CDL training program to bridge the gap in the new CDL testing requirements. He also fostered a cultural shift to empower his staff to take part in the reorganization, cross-training, education and line of advancement for seasoned employees. By early 2022, employee retention increased to all-time highs and he brought staffing levels to pre-pandemic numbers. For the first time in two years, the company is not only back on track, but it's also rolling full steam ahead with momentum. 

Colleagues say Mandrell has changed the face of transportation for the city of Lubbock and is setting trends across the Southwest.  

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?  

There is no specific experience that has led me to where I am today but there were a lot of small events with tremendous opportunities that aligned correctly that have led me to where I am today. I have been extremely fortunate and thankful to have a lot of great mentors who have believed and invested in me along the way, and I owe it to them to work hard to prove to them that their time invested in me was worth it. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?   

The people. I have the privilege of working with and for some tremendous people and they motivate me to be my very best each and every day. Most importantly, the people that we move every day and knowing that we are impacting their lives in ways no others can gives me great joy. 

What’s the most challenging part of your job?  

The most challenging part is finding a happy medium between political requests and employee needs. We try to address every request and need, but unfortunately there are certain decisions we have to make that may not meet certain expectations. Regardless, every decision is made with community, agency and political requests in mind. 

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?   

There have been a few accomplishments along my journey that I am very proud of but navigating our agency through the pandemic has to be the one I am most proud. Our agency is much more resilient and is better prepared for future success having gone through the pandemic. We restructured services to meet temporary needs and have begun post-pandemic recovery efforts by enhancing services offered through new and emerging technologies. Our front-line employees were, and still are, champions for our community by providing essential trips, meal deliveries, mobile vaccine clinics and many other things that have provided support to our community’s efforts to combat COVID-19. 

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?   

Work hard and stay the course. Never let others bring you down and convince you that something is not possible. Remain confident in your abilities and committed to your goals. 

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May 22, 2018