Every month, operators from King County Metro’s seven transit bases select their fellow drivers for their 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 attendance, appearance, and discipline.
We want to introduce you to our Operators of the Month for March and April 2021. 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 | March 2021: Daniel Dechert
Daniel started as a part-time operator in March 2013, went full-time in January 2016, and returned to part-time in April 2019. Daniel has earned a seven-year Safe Driver Award and three commendations.
Daniel was about to begin commercial truck driving school when he was, as he put it, “blessed with the opportunity” to work part-time job a Metro. He considers his laid-back, flexible demeanor well-suited for a customer-service-oriented field like transit.
Daniel enjoys listening and dancing to trance and electronica. When not at work, you’ll likely find Daniel hiking with his husband and their dogs, often at Mount Rainier or Mount St. Helens.
Daniel’s advice for other operators:
“Don’t get stressed out by other drivers on the road who fail to yield or cut you off. Just realize that most people hate being stuck behind a large vehicle and it’s not worth getting stressed out. Be kind to other drivers and they may remember your politeness.”
Atlantic Base | April 2021: Kathryn McMahon
Kathy was hired as a part-time operator in 2003 and went full-time in 2006. Being a transit operator was a natural fit for Kathy, who enjoys people and driving big rigs. She has earned a 15-year Safe Driver Award and eight commendations.
Born in Spokane, Kathy grew up playing soccer, a sport in which she has continued competing at high levels for decades. She has won national tournaments from her twenties through her fifties. Kathy took her love of soccer to coaching, having led several premier youth teams. Her passion for athleticism and fitness extends far beyond soccer to include cycling, backpacking, hiking, and weight training. Kathy has competed in two amateur body building contests. Her primary mode of transportation is her bicycle. Kathy has two wonderful children, four terrific grandkids, and a fantastic wife who shares her love of fitness and the outdoors.
Kathy’s advice for other operators:
“Find a passion and purpose outside of work.”
Bellevue Base | March 2021: Jim Dempsey
Jim has been a part-time operator since 2002 and has earned an 18-year Safe Driver Award and eight commendations.
Jim has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and a master’s license from the US Coast Guard. His hobbies include podcasting, boats, literature, reading, and writing.
Jim’s advice for other operators:
“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”
Bellevue Base | April 2021: Dennis Witheril
Dennis became an operator in July 1991 and has earned a 25-year Safe Driver Award and 11 commendations.
Before coming to Metro, Dennis worked at Seattle Steel and felt like making a change. He noticed Metro was hiring, and the rest is history.
Born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and raised in West Seattle, Dennis has been happily married for 14 years. He spends his leisure time traveling to Mexico, cooking, and attending an annual golf trip with his Metro co-workers.
Dennis’ advice for other operators:
“Just slow down a little. Having a positive attitude can really help. Don’t get caught up with the games people play.”
Central Base | March 2021: Michael Webb
Hired as a part-time operator in 1985, Michael went full-time in 1990, left Metro in 2000, and returned in 2003. He has earned a 26-year Safe Driver Award and received 11 commendations.
Michael says he had a rough upbringing and was aimlessly living in the moment until he found this great job with Metro.
One of the best words of advice Michael received was from a passenger who said, “Just shut up and drive.”
Michael’s advice for other operators:
“Prioritize your family first, your health and happiness.”
Central Base | April 2021: Elizabeth Coffelt
Hired as a part-time operator in November 2015, Liz went full time in 2016 and has earned a five-year Safe Driver Award and several commendations.
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Liz graduated from Portland Community College and went on to attend the University of Oregon. She loves to drive, meet amazing new people, and never gets tired of the views. Liz was a transit operator for Portland’s Tri-Met for 15 years. She also drove high-end luxury charter buses, touring all over the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Liz played professional soccer for Portland Women’s Thunderbird Team with whom she traveled throughout the United States and Europe. Liz has been married for the last 12 years to her wife, a successful Seattle realtor.
In her spare time, Liz likes traveling, kayaking, biking, camping, and sports. She loves all Oregon Ducks sports teams.
Liz’s advice for other operators:
“Be respectful, courteous, and kind to other drivers. Never forget that no one person is better than anyone else.”
East Base | March 2021: Mary Newton
Mary was hired as a part-time operator in January 2001, went full-time in April 2003. She has earned a 16-years Safe Driver Award, several commendations, and was previously Operator of the Month in 2012. A self-proclaimed “military brat,” Mary was born in Coffeyville, Kansas, where she attended high school and Coffeyville Community College. She took a few college courses by way of the Air Force Contract Classes, The United States Air Force, and DOD Contracting Mountain Home United States Air Force Base. Mary said she became a transit operator because, “I fell into it to keep my husband happy then found that I liked the people.”
Happily married with 12 kids, three grandchildren, and the East Base Operations family, Mary spends her free time enjoying reading, music, history, helping people, and just listening to what they have to say about life.
Mary’s advice for other operators:
“Always try to see the other person’s point of view.”
East Base | April 2021: Janet Gratton
Information not yet provided.
North Base | March 2021: Christine Ellis
Christine started as a part-time operator in 2001 and has been full-time since 2008. She has earned a 13-year Safe Driver Award and received two commendations.
Christine moved to Seattle in 1980 after marrying her husband, who recently retired from the North Base shop after 40 years of service. She says Metro is a great place to work and has inspired two of her sons to choose careers at Metro—and, since it’s coming up fast, Christine also calls Metro a great place to retire from!
Christine loves to garden, and this August she and her husband are planning a motorcycle trip across the country.
Christine’s advice for other operators:
“The right attitude and a smile go a long way in this profession
North Base | April 2021: Dawit Seyoum
Dawit Seyoum was hired as a part-time operator in May 2015 and went full-time in March 2016. Dawit, who said he wanted to drive buses because he has a passion for driving, has earned a four-year Safe Driver Award and four commendations.
Dawit thinks that Metro is a respected institution that promotes personal growth.
Born in Ethiopia, Dawit earned a medical degree at Addis Ababa University. Prior to joining Metro, he was a health care provider here in the U.S. and worked with mentally disabled individuals.
Married with a seven-year-old boy and twin girls, when he’s not playing with his kids, Dawit enjoys playing soccer.
Ryerson Base | March 2021: Terry Watkins
Terry was hired as a part-time operator in June 2003 and went full-time in July 2009. She has earned a 12-year Safe Driver Award and nine commendations.
Terry was driving school buses when she saw a Metro bus and said: “Why not? I already drive a yellow bus, I can do that.”
Terry has two daughters, five grandchildren, and two great grandchildren who are the loves of her life.
She loves to travel and experience different cultures in places like the southern U.S. states and the Philippines.
When the season is right, Terry is in her garden and canning some of her favorite fruits: peaches and pears. This season, Terry is going to make southern Chow Chow for her family!
Terry’s advice for other operators:
“Your good days outweigh your bad days. Enjoy your job and treat people how you would like to be treated.”
Ryerson Base | April 2021: Tesfaye Gudeta
Tesfaye was hired as a part-time operator in 2008 and has been full-time since 2010. He has earned a 13-year Safe Driver Award and one commendation.
Tesfaye was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and spent time in Seattle, San Diego, and Las Vegas before settling in Seattle because it “felt like home.” He was the owner-operator of a semi-truck before he joined Metro in search of a greater involvement with his community and a stable career.
Tesfaye’s hobbies include reading, Bible study, walking, and playing ping pong, for which he won the Ryerson Base Championship.
Tesfaye’s advice for other operators:
“Don’t stress, keep it simple, and take care of your heart.”
South Base | March 2021: Greg Klasen
Greg started as a part-time operator in 1995 and went full time in 1998. He has earned a 25-year Safe Driver Award and two commendations. He became a transit operator because of the consistent work schedule and employment stability that Metro offered.
Greg has an impeccable safe driving record and a history of delivering top-notch customer service. One of his most notable commendations describes him handling an on-board disturbance with a “patient, professional and compassionate” demeanor.
In addition to being a valued member of the Metro team, Greg has previously worked for Weyerhaeuser. He studied hard hat commercial diving at Highline College and worked for American Oil Field Diving Company.
Greg enjoys hunting, fishing, and spending time with his daughter.
Greg’s advice for other operators:
“Never have a fare dispute.”
South Base | April 2021: Christian Chambers
Christian was hired as a part-time operator in 2012 and went full time in 2015. Christian, who became a Metro transit operator because he was looking for a change and always loved driving, has earned an eight-year Safe Driver Award and three commendations.
Christian’s passengers praise his ability to deliver quality customer service and a safe ride, even during the busy times.
Prior to Metro, Christian worked in the bottled water industry, doing distribution and operations for 15 years for Crystal Spring Water.
A graduate of Franklin High School, Christian has two sons, a daughter, and one grandson, all living in the Seattle area. In his spare time, Christian enjoys working out by lifting weights and going hiking.
Christian’s advice for other operators:
“Try not to take things personally and you will have a better day.”