A commercial pilot “flying” for Metro. A driver whose grandfather, father, uncle, and brother are part of the Metro family. A Tlingit Tribe member who works to raise awareness of the challenges faced by Native Americans. And someone who has traveled the world, but always found his way back to Seattle—and Metro!
They are members of a group with close to 175 years behind the wheel.
Meet your Operators of the Month for September and October 2021.
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.
Please join us in congratulating them. The Operators of the Month have the privilege of coming together later to vote on who among them will be Metro’s Operator of the Year!
(Information and photos provided by the operators)
Atlantic Base | September 2021: Beniyam Esayas
Hired as a part-time operator in 2016, Benny went full-time a year later. He has earned a three-year Safe Driver Award and four commendations.
Driving for Metro was a perfect fit for him, combining his interest in serving his community with his love of driving.
Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Benny came to Seattle in 2008. He was the owner of a food truck business, which he sold upon becoming a full-time operator.
Benny has three kids and loves watching football, especially the Seahawks!
“My driver was awesome in dealing with a rider in crisis.”
Atlantic Base | October 2021: Egbert Wilson
“Bert” was hired as a part-time operator in 1996 and has been full-time since 1998. He has earned a 17-year Safe Driver Award and six commendations.
Bert was born and raised in Columbia, Missouri, where he attended Hickman High School. He later served four years in the U.S. Navy.
Married for 36 years, Bert has two sons and one granddaughter. He enjoys bowling in his spare time.
Bert’s advice for other operators:
“Be nice, be honest, take time off if you need to, and talk to other drivers. We all go through the same problems.”
“My driver pays attention to the road and has prevented an accident on more than one occasion.”
Bellevue Base | September 2021: Mark O’Rourke
Mark was hired as a part-time operator in 2009 and went full-time in 2012. He has earned an 11-year Safe Driver Award and seven commendations.
Mark flew for Aloha Airlines before it went out of business. He initially thought he would be driving for Metro temporarily, but after 12 and-a-half years, Mark’s still “flying” with Metro!
Born in Calgary, Alberta, Mark has been married for 33 years. His son recently received a college degree in mechanical engineering, and his daughter is a senior at Arizona State University.
Along with having been an airline pilot, Mark is a former professional ski racing coach! His past-time activities are flying planes, biking, and water sports.
Mark’s advice for other operators:
“Life is short; try to enjoy each day.”
“He treated passengers exactly how one wishes to be treated while riding the bus.”
Bellevue Base | October 2021: Spencer Scott
Spencer started as a part-time operator in 1996 and went full-time in 1998. He has earned a 21-year Safe Driver Award and one commendation.
Spencer has lived in Alaska, Colorado, and Spain but has always found his way back to Seattle where he was born and raised. He lives with his partner and their cat.
Spencer’s hobbies include classical guitar, tai chi, and taking trips in his A-liner trailer.
Spencer’s advice for other operators:
“A problem is not a problem until you make it so. So, don’t make problems for yourself. Let things go.”
“He went out of his way to tell me about my open tailgate on my truck in busy traffic.”
Central Base | September 2021:
The Central Base Operator of the Month for September wishes to remain anonymous.
Central Base | October 2021: Mitch Spencer
Mitch was hired as a part-time operator in 2015 and went full-time a year later. He has earned a five-year Safe Driver Award and seven commendations.
Mitch grew up riding buses in Seattle. He loves interacting with the public and knew driving buses would be a great fit.
Mitch attended Indian Heritage High School and Olympic College. A member of the Tlingit Tribe, Mitch is active with several Alaska Native and Native American organizations, bringing awareness to challenges faced by Native Americans and developing strategies to solve them.
Mitch is a proud father and grandfather who enjoys mountaineering and traveling with his partner.
Mitch’s advice to other operators:
“A positive attitude and tone are the keys to a great day!”
“He de-escalated the situation and avoided a serious problem.”
East Base | September 2021: Ryan Oravitz
Ryan was hired as a part-time operator in November 2003 and went full-time in June 2006. He has earned a 14-year Safe Driver Award and one commendation.
“We had an amazingly positive experience.”
East Base | October 2021: David Lombard
Hired as a part-time operator in 2010, David went full-time in 2015. He has earned a six-year Safe Driver Award and 11 commendations.
David has a background in finance and real estate and has worked in leadership roles for troubled youth and the unhoused. He also worked in car sales and as an actor. He has a natural tendency to help those in need.
David enjoys real estate investing, weight training, basketball, and music production in his spare time.
David’s advice to other operators:
“Our driver was incredibly accommodating, especially given the snowy conditions. He was friendly, energetic, and safe.”
North Base |September 2021: Colleen Porter
Colleen started as a part-time operator in 2013 and went full-time in 2015. She thinks the job is “awesome and rewarding” and has earned an eight-year Safe Driver Award and three commendations.
Born in Portland, Colleen attended Shorewood High School and Shoreline Community College. After 25-years as a hairdresser, she applied for Metro because of the great pay, union representation, diversity among employees, and because she loves driving.
Her interests include nutrition and issues to curb climate change.
Colleen’s advice for other operators:
“Relax and enjoy the scenery.”
“She was friendly, professional, and a smooth driver.”
North Base | October 2021: Bereket Alemu
Bereket was hired as a part-time operator in April 2015 and became a full-time operator six months later! He has earned a six-year Safe Driver Award and one commendation. Bereket joined Metro because he enjoys driving and he likes serving the public.
Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Bereket came to the United States in 2002. He worked different jobs while attending school at Seattle Central Community College.
Bereket is married and he likes to spend time with family and friends. He enjoys walking and playing soccer.
Bereket’s advice for other operators:
“Be kind and patient.”
“Thanks for being so cordial.”
Ryerson Base | September 2021: Jesus Pineda
Jesus started with Metro as a part-time operator in 2005 and went full-time in 2007. He has earned a 14-year Safe Driver Award and six commendations.
Born in Manila, Jesus came to the United States in 1999. He served in the U.S. Navy as a reservist from 2002 through 2010 and was deployed to Iraq in 2006
Jesus and his wife have been married for 13 years and they have two beautiful daughters.
Jesus’ advice for other operators:
“Take care of your health. Eat right, drink lots of water, and always get good sleep. If you feel stressed, take the day off before you make a mistake.”
“He was pleasant, provided accurate information, and smooth on the wheel as well.”
Ryerson Base | October 2021: Brian Mihara
Brian was hired as a part-time operator in 2015 and went full-time in 2017. He has earned a five-year Safe Driver Award and one commendation.
Brian comes from a Metro family. His grandfather, father, uncle, and brother have all worked either in Vehicle Maintenance or as an operator. While studying at Bellevue College and considering his career opportunities, Brian’s father encouraged him to join the family and give Metro a try.
His hobbies include cars, stocks, poker, and the NBA.
Brian’s advice for other drivers:
“Try to balance work and home life.”
“Great driver. Punctual, professional, and personable.”
South Base | September 2021: Patrick Murphy
Patrick was hired as a part-time operator in 2000 and became full-time in 2002. Patrick has earned an 18-year Safe Driver Award and two commendations.
A Tacoma native, Patrick served as a combat medic and then as a missionary. Patrick studied economics at the University of Washington, and after college worked as both a bus driver for the Renton School District and a claims adjuster. After experiencing a layoff, Patrick put his CDL to good use by coming to Metro. When he went full-time, he committed himself to making a career out of it and has never looked back.
Patrick met his wife of 29 while serving as a missionary. They have adopted three children, each of which has special needs. He is grateful for the flexibility and benefits Metro provides to meet the needs of his children.
In his spare time, Patrick enjoys his family, strategy games, and motorsports.
Patrick’s advice for other operators:
“Look for the good in each day.”
“He was so professional and caring about everyone else. I was very impressed.”
South Base | October 2021: Harold Batson, Jr.
Harold was hired as a part-time operator in 2000 and went full-time in 2003. He has earned an 18-year Safe Driver Award and four commendations.
Before coming to Metro, Harold drove tanker trucks and transports and worked in the auto parts industry. When asked why he became a transit operator, he said, “I enjoy working with people and driving as well.”
A native of Moses Lake, Harold is a Navy veteran, where he attained the rank of 1st Class Petty Officer. After the Navy, Harold attended City College of Chicago, and later earned an associate degree in social sciences at Green River Community College.
Harold has been married to his wife for 26 years. He is the father of three children, a grandfather of nine, and a great-grandfather of one. His interests include convertibles and motorcycles.
Harold’s advice for other operators:
“Keep your body on a swivel.”
“I want to thank the driver for always kneeling the bus at my stop where there isn’t a raised curb.”