They are as unique as the people they meet with everyday when behind the wheel of their coaches:
A tennis coach. A bowler. Another who started driving for Metro to help pay for school. A retired banker who now regrets telling the bus drivers who got him to work to “hurry up.” And those who started driving buses after being told they would be good at it.
They are part of a group of transit operators with more than a century of experience at Metro!
Meet your Operators of the Month for March and April 2022.
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!
We love to hear from our riders about their operators! Please leave a comment on how your operator is doing.
(Information and photos provided by the operators)
Atlantic Base | March 2022: Won Cho
Won was hired as a part-time operator in 2000 and became a full-time operator in 2002. He is a is a Safe Driver Award recipient has received six commendations.
Won came to Metro because he believes it is a respectable job, and that God gave him this job. He previously worked for a garment distribution company’s export division for 16 years, before immigrating to the United States in 1994.
Born in Seoul, Korea, Won attended Myung Ji University where he earned his Bachelor of English teaching degree.
Married for 44 years, Won and his wife have two sons, and two grandchildren. When not behind the wheel, Won enjoys fishing, watching movies and reading.
Won’s advice to other operators: “Like the old adage, ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Do not hurry, sleep well.”
“He goes above and beyond. He is extremely patient with kids getting on the bus. He even gave my five-year old a small race car to occupy himself on the ride. Very sweet man.”
Atlantic Base | April 2022: Kerri Thomas
Kerri was hired as a part-time operator in July 2018 and has been full-time since 2019. She is a Safe Driver Award recipient and has earned 12 commendations.
Kerri has been married for 25 years and has three grown children who are all happy in life. She could not be prouder of them. In her spare time, Kerri enjoys live music, gardening, comedy, travel and golf.
Kerri’s advice to other operators: “Everyone has a purpose. Everyone has a story. Kindness always prevails! I truly believe you cannot judge someone by their outward appearance. You never know what hand was dealt to them in life.”
“She treats people with respect, her attitude is very approachable, and she has great knowledge of the city!”
Bellevue Base | March 2022: Jeff Bell
Hired as a part-time operator in 2000, Jeff has been full-time since 2001. He has earned multiple Safe Driver Awards and three commendations.
A Ballard High grad, Jeff worked in the bowling industry for over 20 years, and for many years maintained a bowling average of over 200.
Jeff and his wife Cynthia have been married for 24 years. Away from Metro, Jeff enjoys adventures that include watching all sorts of wildlife. He especially enjoys watching lake birds.
Jeff’s advice to other operators: “We have the best jobs in the world, and although there are moments, don’t let them get to you.”
“Very kind, professional bus driver took great care of his passengers on a rainy Northwest day. Respectful and considerate to all riders regardless of race, age, or station in life.”
Bellevue Base | April 2022: Phillip McInnis
Phillip was hired as a part-time operator in December 2017 and went full-time in 2019. He has earned Safe Driver Awards and three commendations.
Phillip was born in Fremont, Calif., and grew up on Oahu, Hawaii. His parents worked for Northwest Airlines, and in 2001 the family moved to the mainland.
Philip attended Lake Washington Technical College where he obtained an associate degree in pre-nursing. While trying to pay for school, Phillip heard that Metro was hiring. Upon learning about the pay, benefits, and schedule flexibility, he realized that working for Metro would be a blessing.
Apart from his work with Metro, Phillip enjoys playing soccer, hiking, studying the Bible, volunteering with middle-schoolers at his church, and leading Bible studies in his community group.
Phillip’s advice to other operators: “Remember that we’re here to serve the riders, and to show as much grace, patience, and mercy as possible.”
Passenger praise: “The driver is excellent, safe, courteous, and helpful.”
Central Base | March 2022: Peter LeClair
Peter was hired as a part-time operator in 2012 and has been full-time since 2016. The recipient of multiple Safe Driver Awards, Peter has received 14 commendations.
Born in Saginaw, Mich., Peter grew up on a farm in Zillah, Wash., and received his degree in Hotel & Restaurant Administration from Washington State University. Prior to joining Metro, he managed Red Lion Inn hotels throughout the Northwest. Encouraged to work in transit by a few of his colleagues who retired from Metro, Peter applied so he could spend time with his two sons.
Married to his college sweetheart Corinda for 35 years, Peter enjoys traveling and working on their house.
Peter’s advice to other operators: “Keep a positive attitude and it will come back to you.”
“The driver is very helpful to me, and I am in a wheelchair. The driver is a smiley guy.”
Central Base | April 2022: Charles Burns
Charles was hired as a part-time operator in 2014 and went full-time in 2016. He has earned multiple Safe Driver Awards and seven commendations.
Charles’ father was in the Air Force, so he has lived all over the U.S. He went to grade school in North Carolina, junior high in North Dakota, and high school in Spokane.
After college at Washington State University, Charles worked for 35 years as a banker. He rode the bus to work every day, so he has more experience as a customer than as an operator. He says he now regrets telling the driver to hurry up!
Charles has two sets of twin nephews in Spokane, and he strives to be their fun uncle. In his spare time, he enjoys bowling and playing softball. Charles also grows over 25 different species of dahlias.
Charles’ advice to other operators: “Be patient and polite. Enjoy the ride.”
Passenger praise: “I was having kind of a rough time, and your kindness really brightened my day.”
East Base | March 2022: Michael Welch
Michael was hired as a part-time operator in 2006 and has been recognized with several Safe Driver Awards and two commendations.
Michael and his wife, Cindy have a daughter named Chanda. His hobbies include riding motorcycles, he has been a member of Christian Motorcyclist Association since 1984.
Michael’s advice to other operators: “Never is there a need to hurry.”
Passenger Praise: “He’s a very careful and gentle driver, not starting too fast or stopping too suddenly. He was very careful to release the brake just before stopping. Riding with him is very pleasant.”
East Base | April 2022: Young Park
Young was hired as a part-time operator in April 2018 and went full-time a year later. Young has earned Safe Driver Awards and three commendations.
Married for 20 years, Young has a daughter, son, and a family dog. He enjoys mountain biking and photography.
Young’s advice to other operators: “Never assume other drivers will give you the right of way.”
Passenger praise: “He was very patient and kind. Love to see this sort of thing.”
North Base |March 2022
Operator who was selected preferred not to accept the recognition.
North Base | April 2022: Dawit Shimelis
Dawit was hired as a part-time operator in May 2017 and went full time in April 2018. He has earned a three-year Safe Driver Award and four commendations.
Dawit joined Metro because he likes to work with and help people. He was born and raised in Ethiopia where he attended Addis Ababa University. Dawit came to the United States in 2000. He is very proud to be Ethiopian, Canadian and American.
Dawit is a family man, married for 20 years and a father of three kids. He likes watching football and is a big fan of the Seahawks.
Dawit’s advice to other operators: “Be patient, follow the rules, and stay professional.”
Passenger praise: “He saw me and waited a few extra seconds for me to hop on and said hello with a big smile. What a sweetheart!”
Ryerson Base | March 2022: Christopher Jette
Chris was started as a part-time operator in 2012 and has been full-time since 2015. He is the recipient of multiple Safe Driver Awards along with six commendations.
Born in Missoula, Mont., Chris graduated from the University of Montana with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, where he put himself through school by driving during the summers.
After college, Chris moved to Seattle and worked as a human resource manager. He was looking for a part-time job to stay active when he joined Metro and has stayed!
The proud owner of two cats—Harry and Lenny—Chris’ hobbies include restoring clocks and classic cars, kick boxing for exercise, and Seattle sports.
Christopher’s advice to other operators: “If you want to get the big picture of driving always look at the smallest mirror.”
Passenger praise: “After coming home from the airport on the Link I got lost on Jackson. I was so frazzled but he just calmly told me where to make my connections and I didn’t even have to pay!”
Ryerson Base | April 2022:
The recipient wishes to remain anonymous
South Base | March 2022: Michael Boyd
Michael was hired as a part-time operator in 2004 and went full-time in 2006. Along with 27 commendations, Michael has received multiple Safe Driver Awards.
Raised in Kansas City, Mo., Michael came to the Pacific Northwest, received and Associate in Arts degree from Pierce College and later attended Clover Park Technical College. He served in the U.S. Army, is a Gulf War Veteran, and has served as a Tacoma Police Officer.
Michael is married and has two daughters. When not driving the bus, he enjoys fishing and boating.
Michael’s advice to other operators: “A few times during your shift, take mindful mental breaks.”
Passenger praise: “He is one of the safest, friendliest, good-natured drivers I encountered in a long time on a Metro bus.”
South Base | April 2022: Kermit Escame
Kermit was hired as a part-time operator in 2012 and has been full-time since 2015. He has earned multiple Safe Driver Awards and four commendations.
A Seattle native, Kermit attended the University of Washington. A certified professional tennis instructor, Kermit was the head pro at Bally’s from 1995-2012. Kermit has served as the head coach of the Foster High School and Green River Community College men’s and women’s tennis teams.
Kermit has been married for 21 years and has three sons. His hobby is working on cars with his sons.
Kermit’s advice to other operators: “Be kind. The kindness you show may be the only kindness your passenger sees in their day.”
Passenger praise: “He showed heartwarming generosity.”