Former Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath shares his thoughts and welcomes new CEO Ric Ilgenfritz.
As I reflect on my career, including the past 15 years at Community Transit, I find myself thinking the most about all the people who have shared the journey with me. I am grateful for the many colleagues and mentors who have brought joy to my life and meaning to my work. I am thankful for the people in communities all across the region I’ve worked with and served. And I am grateful for the people who have trusted me to deliver results “better than promised” and then held me accountable to do just that. I’ve learned from the best over the past 40 years, beginning in the early days when I started as a maintenance manager all the way through my role as CEO. Through it all, it’s been the engagement with my colleagues and the community that I will value and remember the most.
I’ve been given some amazing opportunities and can look back with pride at the projects and initiatives I’ve worked on as part of an amazing team here at Community Transit. Among them are the ORCA and Next Gen ORCA projects; the implementation of an “employee maintenance center” to prevent and treat injury; the establishment of a Customer Experience Department and, with it, an enhanced empathy for customers; the passage of Proposition 1 and its increased revenue that fueled the largest expansion in the agency’s history; and the creation of an Employee Engagement Department, to name a few.
There have also been difficult times. Shortly after I came to Community Transit, we entered the Great Recession. Those were incredibly challenging years and there were many adverse impacts to the community and to colleagues at the agency. While bleak at times, we knew we would get through it together and emerge stronger. And we did. We are now in the midst of another very difficult period, having gone through nearly 10 months of responding to a global pandemic and the multiple impacts on our agency, our customers, and our employees. While difficult, we will transition beyond COVID-19 and I can say with certainty that the future looks bright for Community Transit.
Some have described me as an eternal optimist. I think that’s probably true. I do think it’s essential, especially in leadership, to see the good in people and the possibilities in the midst of challenges. I’ve tried to apply that throughout my career and know that I’ve benefited from working with people who have that same perspective.
I’m optimistic today because the agency is full of dedicated, talented people, and also because the agency is welcoming a promising new CEO on board in January—Ric Ilgenfritz. Ric is someone with vision, energy and a commitment to public service. We share a similar philosophy about leadership and I have every confidence the agency will benefit from his depth and breadth of experience and his desire to make a difference for the people who work here and for the people we serve. Combined with a strong executive leadership team in place, the agency is in good hands as I transition to my next chapter: retirement.
A little over a year ago, we embarked on a refreshed Mission, Vision and set of agency priorities. I am very proud of the executive leadership team’s work to develop and to embed this refreshed strategic vision across the agency. I’ve always felt the true test of a strategic vision and mission is not how it holds up during good times, but how it endures during challenging times. I’ve been pleased to see that our agency vision and mission are as true today as ever, and perhaps even more so, as we have rallied around providing an essential service in our community. It’s that vision and mission that will continue to guide the agency well into the future.
As I close this chapter and move to the next, I thank everyone who has been a part of this journey with me. I feel truly blessed in many ways, but especially to have had an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives through a career dedicated to public service. I am a resident of Snohomish County and I retire knowing I have made a positive impact in our county and our region. I’ll continue to be an advocate for Community Transit in my community and look forward to using the service well into the future.
I wish all of you and your loved ones a safe and healthy holiday season and a new year of great hope and abundance.