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Welcoming Remarks from Valarie J. McCall

The following remarks were delivered by APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall at the Opening General Session of the APTA Annual Meeting ­October 5 in San Francisco.

Good morning. Good Morning APTA!

Thank you for that kind introduction, Phil {Immediate Past Chair Phillip Washington}. You have been a great leader for APTA and for that we will always be grateful. Phil’s Stand Up for Transportation Day helped to put the funding needs on the agenda at the same time across the nation. Thank you again, Phil.

I am honored to stand here today as your new APTA chair.

It is going to be an exciting year for APTA and I look forward to working with each of you and of course, our new Executive Committee.

Please join me in congratulating these leaders.

In addition, I would like to thank all of the past members of the Executive Committee and Board of APTA, those who have served before and with me and those who are rotating off this year.

I follow in the footsteps of all the past APTA Chairs and many other great leaders. Special thanks to George “Big Daddy” Dixon, who, along with Jesse Anderson, dropped me off, like a kid on the first day of kindergarten, a little over nine years ago, to the Transit Board Members Meeting, where our own BMBG Member Hugh Harrison was then Transit Board Member Chair and said, “bye-bye.”

Now, here I stand as Chair. With APTA, all things are possible.

I would be remiss if I did not take a moment of personal privilege to give a few more important thank you’s.

First, a big thank you to Mary C. Booker, my 94 year old sidekick, who could not be here today, but is supporting me from home in Cleveland, along with Kapono Gabriele McCall, my wonderful mini poodle. Mary is the matriarch of our family, my biggest fan, my heart, whom I would be lost without.

Next, I want to thank my boss, yes, my boss is here. The Honorable Frank G. Jackson, the best Mayor in the history of the City of Cleveland. Had Mayor Jackson not appointed me to GCRTA’s Board, I would not be here today.

Thank you, Mayor, for your ongoing trust and support of me and for being the best boss ever, the best mentor and a true example of good leadership. I promise to be back in the office, first thing Thursday morning (unless you want to give me Thursday off. No? Ok!)

To my team at GCRTA, can you all please stand. Without your support and encouragement, I could not be here and I want you to know that I am honored to serve the citizens of Cleveland on the board of the nation’s best transit system in the whole, wide world. Thank you for being here.

To my sister and bff, Ms. Traci Clark, who is here today, true friendship is really hard to find. I truly appreciate you and thank you for being my sister and best friend. And thank you, Mr. Al ­Gulley, for being here too!

I would like all Transit Board Members to please stand. Being a transit board member is one of the most important jobs that we have. We are responsible for making decisions and providing leadership and policy guidance of our great CEOs to ensure that we deliver good, quality public transportation. Thank you for allowing me to stand here today.

We cannot do the job before us without good transit CEOs. Can I have Joe Calabrese and all Transit CEOs stand and allow us to applaud each of you for the hard work that you do day-in and day-out for our public transit riders?

While we know we have awesome and fantastic Transit Board Members and phenomenal Transit CEOs, none of this could happen without the support of our Business Members.

Patrick Scully, can you and all members of the BMBG stand and be recognized for the level of experience, support and expertise that BMBG brings to APTA as a whole? We could not do this without each of you.

Last, but certainly not least, Michael and all of the APTA staff who provide great work 24/7/365—yes, I know that is redundant—that is second to none. Thank you.

Long before I became a member of APTA’s board of directors or a trustee for the Greater Cleveland RTA, I knew first-hand how critical public transit is for millions of people.

Growing up in Cleveland, the bus did not just take me to a stop along the line; it gave me a glimpse of what was possible. The #10 and #8 took me to school; the #3 took me to my job at McDonald’s, while the Rapid took me downtown and beyond. They all offered access to opportunities. I truly believe that public transportation helped shape me into the independent woman I am today.

One of the enduring strengths of the public transportation industry—our industry—is that it depends on public and private partnerships. Without the support of our communities, there is no public in public transportation!

Today, our industry faces more serious challenges and exciting opportunities than ever before. There is so much going on in the world today: so much chaos and confusion, too many competing agendas, none of which should surprise any of us.

Changes in technology, customers’ needs, funding sources, government rules, the skills of our workers . . . all of these trends are going to make public transportation a very different industry in ways we never imagined.

APTA must continue to lead where the world is going in public transportation. We have to be ahead of the curve. If we are not, like missing the bus, we will be left behind.

APTA has to stay the course. We must resist the temptation to become a social club, which is not what we do.
In Cleveland, we don’t run from challenges, we meet them head on. As Mayor Jackson said in his 2015 State of the City Address: “Hard times is what we do!”

As Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown told us earlier this year during our Legislative Conference, “the Civil Rights Movement” started with a little lady sitting in the front of a bus.

Transportation is the key to our economic vitality and prosperity. It helps to alleviate social, racial and economic disparities by allowing everyone to make essential, high quality transportation choices.

In order to succeed, not just survive, we will need what the best-run organizations have fostered in their cultures: diversity of thought . . . and collaboration.

Diversity of thought isn’t a social nicety or a political accommodation; it’s a strategic necessity. The ability to bring together people from different backgrounds, disciplines and generations . . . and to leverage all they have to offer . . . is a “must-have.”

The good news for our industry is that we already have it.

It’s built into APTA’s membership and governance—through the voices of our transit system leaders, our business executives, and our transit board members.

These three Member groups bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to APTA and they are critically important to meeting the challenges of our changing world.

But let’s be honest. Inviting different constituencies to share their ideas is one thing. Getting those groups to work for a common good is another.

This is why collaboration is so important. We need to bring clarity as an organization to our mission and purpose and one way to do this is by collaboration with other organizations that further our collective purpose.

If we want to be successful in the “future world of transportation,” then we need to work together to meet these challenges and one way to do that is through collaboration.

As APTA Chair, I want to be a catalyst for greater collaboration. We’re a stronger, more effective industry when we all feel we’re on the same team. We’re at our best, when we work together!

Here are two ways we can do our best . . . and be even more successful.

First, collaboration begins at home. We need to ensure we have the greatest assortment of ideas and knowledge within APTA.

APTA’s more than 150 committees, task forces and working groups are a valuable asset. They can be even more valuable when all three of our constituencies are aligned and well represented at every table.

To help make this happen, I’m establishing a task force to explore new opportunities for collaboration throughout the extended APTA family.

And in keeping with its mission, the APTA Task Force on Member Collaboration will be led by three co-chairs: Ann August, CEO of Birmingham-­Jefferson County Transit Authority (MAX), representing a transit system; Patrick J. Scully, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, MCI & Chair, BMBG; and David M. Stackrow, Board Chair, Capital District Transportation Authority and Chair, Transit Board Members Committee.

The committee will include five BMBG Members, five Transit CEOs and five Transit Board Members, along with each officer of APTA serving in an ex-officio capacity.

Second, we know we benefit from working with groups outside our industry.

So, I intend to work with three national groups that represent the people who are on the front lines of our issues: the United States Conference of Mayors, led by Mr. Tom Cochran, thank you Tom for being here today; the National League of Cities, led by Mr. Clarence Anthony; and the National Association of Regional Councils, led by Ms. Joanna Turner.

Michael {APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy} and I have either met with and/or spoken directly with the leaders of these organizations and they want to collaborate with us.

They understand the value of doing something as simple as coordinating our meeting schedules so we not only attend, but speak at each other’s major conferences. They also understand the value of doing things that are more complex.

These groups are our natural partners. After all, public transit vehicles travel on streets that are owned and maintained by cities and counties. Many state, city and local officials sit on transit boards or have responsibility for appointing board members.

If you need a powerful example of what can be gained from diverse thought and collaboration, look no further than our fight for a new transportation bill. Many mayors and local leaders have been vocal champions of increased transit funding in Washington and in their own state capitals.

More than 70 mayors took part in Stand Up for Transportation Day . . . and governors and members of Congress noticed!

That kind of support has made a real difference in what APTA has been able to accomplish on Capitol Hill. That’s the power of collaboration.

Throughout my career of public service, I have learned many important lessons. My work as chair of APTA’s Transit Board Members Committee taught me how much Board Members can do for our industry. My work as a city official taught me how productive partnerships, rather than position, can get things done.

These leadership experiences are at the heart of why I believe collaboration must continue to be woven into the ­fabric of APTA and everything we do in our local communities.

It all starts with the belief that no matter how smart we may be or how much authority we may have, we can always accomplish much more together than we can separately.

Isn’t that why we do what we do: To make the biggest, most lasting positive difference?

That’s my goal this year, and with your guidance and support I know we’ll succeed.

Thank you, all.
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