Every month, operators from King County Metro’s seven transit bases select their fellow drivers who make positive contributions to Metro and recognize them as Operators of the Month. The operators selected demonstrate safe driving skills; show courteous and helpful attitudes toward customers; and pay conscientious attention to job requirements such as attendance, appearance and discipline.
We want to introduce you to our Operators of the Month for November and December 2020. Please join us in congratulating them. The Operators of the Month have the privilege of coming together to vote on who among them will be Metro’s Operator of the Year!
(Information and photos provided by the operators)
Atlantic Base | November 2020: Thomas Smart
Hired as a part-time operator in January 2015, Thomas became a full-time operator in October 2015 and has earned a five-year Safe Driver Award and received 35 commendations.
Thomas’s background is in transportation and customer service, he joined Metro because he “stumbled” into a skill set that he believes made him a perfect candidate for the demands of driving buses.
Born and raised in Ohio, Thomas moved to Seattle in 2009 and still feels like a tourist at times because “there is so much to check out in the Northwest.”
When not driving, Thomas enjoys bicycling, rock climbing, water skiing, hiking, media arts, and reading history, philosophy, and science fiction.
Thomas’ advice to other operators:
“Have a proactive plan for ego depletion (Wikipedia), everything else will fall into place.”
Atlantic Base | December 2020: Khalif Warsama
Khalif, who was hired as a part-time operator in 2016 and went full-time one year later, has earned a three-year Safe Driver Award and three commendations.
Born and raised in Somalia, where he attended high school until immigrating to the United States, Khalif finished his education at Renton Technical College. He also has a diploma in business technology from Moses Lake Technical College.
Married with one daughter, Khalif enjoys spending his free time playing basketball, hanging out with family and friends, and hiking.
Khalif’s advice for other operators:
“Exercise more and drink more water.”
Bellevue Base | November 2020: Timothy Kelly
Tim was hired as a part-time operator in October 1999 and has earned an 18-year Safe Driver Award and three commendations.
Born and raised in Seattle, Tim became a driver when he realized he was a way better driver than most and should be paid for his skills. Married for 34 years, Tim and his wife have two adult daughters. In his spare time, Tim enjoys playing in the dirt (aka gardening), woodworking, bicycles, crabbing, racing motorcycles, skiing, playing volleyball, and crossword puzzles.
Tim’s advice to other operators:
“Keep track of all the players; just because you are using your turn signal doesn’t always mean they get your intentions.”
Bellevue Base | December 2020: Victor Rodriguez
Hired as part-time operator in January 2015, Victor went full-time 10 months later. He has earned a three-year Safe Driver Award.
Born in Houston, Texas, Victor moved to Seattle and was working at the downtown Bellevue Post Office when he applied to Metro. Six years later, he hasn’t looked back.
In his time away from Metro, Victor enjoys running. One of his proudest accomplishments is finishing a 10K race first in his age group.
Victor’s advice for other operators:
“Eat before you drive.”
Central Base | November 2020: Martha Daniels
Hired at Metro in May 2013, Martha has earned a six-year Safe Driver Award and ten commendations. Martha, a Seattle native and graduate of Mt. Rainier High School, found her way to Metro through family; she saw that her cousin was able to support a family with six kids, and own his own home and cars, all on one income. Martha enjoys people, society and new environments, so driving transit was a perfect fit and she still enjoys it today.
When not driving, Martha enjoys music, socializing and dancing which she shares with her partner. She also keeps busy painting, collaging and travelling.
Martha’s advice for other operators:
“Keep your body functional and strong. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to the organs and tissues and returns carbon dioxide to the lungs. That process is vital and essential to the body, just like operators provide the essential process of moving people throughout the system. We keep the city moving, functional and strong. You are appreciated.”
Central Base |December 2020: Paul Tuaoa
Paul started as a part-time operator in December 2015 going full-time in March 2018. He has a three-year Safe Driver Award and six commendations.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Paul took the bus to and from school every day and says if it wasn’t for the bus he wouldn’t have known how to get to school. Being able to transport our community safely to their destinations is Paul’s number 1 goal while driving the bus.
Married with four children, Paul says he will soon be a grandpa and is very excited to start this new chapter in his life.
Paul’s advice for other operators:
“Tomorrow is never promised. Live, laugh, love, and most of all respect. We are all in this together. Be safe and stay blessed.”
East Base | November 2020: Scott Morton
Scott started as part-time Operator in March 2017, going full-time in April 2018. He has earned a three-year Safe Driver Award and five commendations.
Born in Tacoma and raised in Puyallup, Scott became a transit operator because he likes people, was looking for a career change and had an uncle recommend Metro. Scott says, “It has been a perfect fit.”
Scott has a wife and three daughters, and when not driving he enjoys spending time with family, fishing, hunting, camping, boating, and traveling. Scott also enjoys watching his daughters play soccer, basketball, ballet, and gymnastics.
Scott’s advice for other operators:
“You help control the atmosphere on the bus. Always greet riders with a smile and treat everyone with respect.”
East Base | December 2020: David Barklind
Hired as a part-time operator in June 2001, David went full-time in August 2003 and has earned a ten-year Safe Driver Award and four commendations.
With a degree in electronics and a background in computer science, David worked at Boeing as an inspector, mechanic, and computer operator before joining Metro for variety, travel, and to be kind to others.
David has been married for 20 years and says, “We work hard and play harder.”
David’s advice for other operators:
“Be kind, enjoy life and have a sense of humor.”
North Base | November 2020: Andrea Abbott
Andrea was hired as a part-time operator in March 2017, going full-time in December 2017. Andrea became a transit operator because Metro was a perfect fit for what she and her kids needed.
Volunteering has always been an important part of her life; tutoring and fundraising are special passions. Married with two children, Andrea’s interests include going on any adventure with her family, snowmobiling, riding quads, or just getting away for the weekend to an indoor skate park or water park.
Andrea’s advice for other operators:
“Relax, take a deep breath, go with the flow and chill. You’ll get there when you get there, so stay safe.”
North Base | December 2020: Guney Ildiri
Guney was hired as a part-time operator in October 2017, went full-time three years later, and has earned a four-year Safe Driver Award and two commendations.
Born in Turkey, Guney moved to Seattle, driving a cab while attending North Seattle College and the University of Washington. Guney also earned a vocational degree as a commercial diver from the Divers Institute of Technology (DIT) and worked as a diver in the Gulf of Mexico oil fields before returning to Seattle and applying at Metro on the advice of a friend. Guney’s wife is an elementary school teacher and they have one son. When he’s not driving, Guney enjoys working on classic cars, cooking, and riding motorcycles.
Guney’s advice for other operators:
“Have a routine and always work on empathy. Always keep in mind ‘safety – service – schedule’, in that order.”
Ryerson Base | November 2020: Operator selected declined the recognition
Ryerson Base |December 2020: Janet Novotny
Janet was hired as part-time operator in October 2015 and went full-time in November 2016. Janet, who has earned a three-year Safe Driver Award and eight commendations, is part of her family’s unofficial profession; she has four brothers who are all professional drivers of some kind.
She has worked as a barber, in the wine industry, the world’s oldest lifeguard (not really, but she was in her mid-50’s) and a professional bread maker before moving to Seattle and applying at Metro.
In her free time, Janet enjoys swimming, gardening, cooking her favorite foods, and is trying to learn how to edit videos on her iPhone.
Janet’s advice for other operators:
“If you are getting into accidents, request driver re-training sooner than later, you will be glad you did.”
South Base | November 2020: Booker T. McKinion
Hired as a part-time operator in October 1984, Booker went full-time in February 1989. He has earned a 28-year Safe Driver Award and 48 commendations.
During a skills and abilities assessment, it was determined Booker was best qualified to be a forest ranger or a bus driver. Being single at the time, Booker figured he’d have a better chance of meeting a future partner in the city driving buses than in the mountains as a ranger.
A Seattle native raised in the Central District who played with Jimi Hendrix, Booker is married with six children, and loves fishing, hunting, archery, bike riding, weightlifting, swimming, teaching pistol shooting, and speaking Spanish.
Booker’s advice to other operators:
“We deal with a lot of difficult people and we should never assume anything with reference to a hostile interaction with the public, but always find a way to deescalate and back away. Always “count to 10”, then say “God Bless You.” Don’t take anything home with you – leave it at work.”
South Base|December 2020: Guleid Yusuf
Guleid started as a part-time operator in February 2017, going full-time in December 2017. He has earned a three-year Safe Driver Award and three commendations.
Born in Somalia and raised in Kenya, Guleid’s family migrated to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. Guleid moved to Seattle in 2017 looking for better opportunities.
Married with two boys and a girl, Guleid loves to travel to exotic places, enjoys sports, hiking, and maintaining fitness.
Guleid’s advice for other operators:
“Stay focused, keep your eyes open, and take one day at a time.”