They are our “rolling ambassadors,” the kind, courteous and helpful smile that greets you every day when you ride with us. Outside of work, they enjoy listening to live music, traveling, astronomy, motorcycle drag racing and remote-control car racing!
They represent more than two centuries of experience behind the wheel. The operators who drive your bus are as unique as you, and all of them love driving and giving back to their community.
Meet your Operators of the Month for March and April 2023.
We love to hear from our riders about their operators! Please leave your comments about our drivers. Interested in becoming a transit operator? Visit “Start your Metro career” to explore well-paying positions with full benefits and a pension in transit operations, trades, rail operations, customer information and countless other fields.
(Information and photos provided by the operators)
Atlantic Base | March 2023: Ruby Carlisle
Ruby started with Metro as a part-time operator in 2004 and has been full-time since 2006. She has earned several Safe Driving Awards, has received seven commendations, and was recognized by her fellow operators as an Operator of the Month in May 2012.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Ruby attended Pierce College, where she studied Criminal Justice and Arts & Science and was an honor student. Prior to joining Metro, she worked as a correctional officer at McNeil Island Correctional Facility for 10 years.
Ruby has two children and three grandchildren. In her free time, she enjoys photography, range shooting, traveling and listening to live music.
Ruby’s advice to other operators: “Do your thing. Just do your job. Don’t take things personally. Make sure you go home safe at the end of the day.”
“The driver was very courteous and had a beautiful smile that made people feel welcome. She made sure to wait for passengers to board. She is a great example.”
Atlantic Base | April 2023: Michael Hill
Michael joined Metro in 1999 as a part-time operator and went full-time in 2012. He has earned multiple Safe Driver Awards and 16 commendations.
Michael served 14 years in the military, and the death of operator Mark McLaughlin, killed in the line of duty in 1998, spurred his interest in becoming an operator. “When the bus went over the Aurora Bridge, it drew me to see what the job was. I thought about how brave the Operator was, and it put focus on the organization. I wanted to see what the transportation culture was all about.”
In his free time, Michael enjoys traveling.
Michael’s advice to other operators: “Assess, reassess, and stay flexible.”
Passenger praise: “I am still getting used to the bus numbers and routes. He was very helpful to me when I was confused about whether I was on the right bus and checked in with me at the next stop to make sure all was OK (it was).”
Bellevue Base | March 2023: Richard Ackley
Richard has been a part-time operator with Metro since 2013. He has earned several Safe Driver Awards and 15 commendations.
Born and raised in Oakland, Calif., Richard attended Foothill Junior College and San Jose State University, where he earned his Associate and Bachelor’s degrees. Before joining Metro, he worked in various customer service roles, including retail sales, as a flight attendant for World Airways, and as a special advisor for Air Vietnam.
In his free time, Richard enjoys collecting watches, Persian rugs, stock trading and astronomy.
Richard’s advice to other operators: “Treat passengers like they are family with a welcome and a thank you. Never engage in fare disputes. Homeless people have issues. If it wasn’t for my job, I could be one of them. Always be grateful for what life gives you.”
Passenger praise: “I was so impressed by his kindness and dedication. My dad was coming from abroad and had no means of communication, but he took the time to speak to him, ensure his safety. I am truly grateful for the exceptional effort.”
Bellevue Base | April 2023: Cherice Johnson
Cherice joined Metro in 2011 as a part-time operator and went full-time in 2016. She has earned multiple Safe Driver Awards and received 13 commendations.
Cherice’s advice to other operators: “Treat others the same way you would like to be treated.”
Passenger praise: “I always enjoy riding with Cherice. She is always so friendly and cheerful. I almost want to miss my stop just to enjoy her company.”
Central Base | March 2023: Thomas Stillwell
Thomas started working for Metro as a part-time operator in 1986 and went full-time in 1990. He has earned numerous Safe Driving Awards and has received 15 commendations.
Thomas has been married for 35 years.
Thomas’ advice to other operators: “Patience, patience and more patience. You can catch more bees with honey than you do with a fly swatter.”
Passenger praise: “A big thank you to the bus driver. So calm and friendly. I have not taken a bus ride in years. From now on I will default to the bus and no longer an Uber or Lyft.”
Central Base | April 2023: Awil Ugas
Awil began at Metro as a part-time operator in 2015 and went full-time in 2016. He has earned multiple Safe Driving Awards and eight commendations.
Passenger praise: “I was greeted by the driver who was careful not to pass me up. He lowered the bus. He asked if I was seated and ready. He lowered the bus again when I got off and wished me a nice day. I had a full cart and two bags with me. It is appreciated.”
East Base | March 2023: Grace Honstain
Grace has been a part-time operator with Metro since 2012. She became an operator to work with people while enjoying the outdoor atmosphere from her “window office.”
Grace has been happily married to her spouse for 43 years, and they have a daughter, son, daughter-in-law and a grandchild, with whom she loves spending time.
In her free time, Grace enjoys quilting, embroidery, and remote-control car racing.
Grace’s advice to other operators: “When in doubt, slow down and take time to think things through.”
East Base | April 2023: Ricardo Gallardo
Ricardo joined Metro as a part-time operator in 1992 and has been full-time since 1997. Ricardo was recognized by his fellow operators as an Operator of the Month in 2007.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Ricardo moved to Seattle when he was 28 years old. He has a background in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.
As to why he became a driver, Ricardo shared, “I was in Alaska and didn’t like the climate. My cousin who worked for Metro told me about the job, and it seemed interesting.”
Ricardo is married and enjoys golfing and snowboarding.
Ricardo’s advice to other operators: “Safety first.”
Passenger praise: “The bus makes a loop at the P&R, so my walk intersected with the bus coming around that loop. As I was waiting for the light, the bus driver opened his window, leaned out with a wallet in hand, and asked me, ‘Is this yours?’ This saved me from untold logistics issues today and beyond. Thank you.”
North Base | March 2023: Gary Smedsrud
Gary started with Metro as a part-time operator in 2011 and went full-time in 2013. He has earned numerous Safe Driver Awards and 13 commendations.
After graduating from Rainier Beach High School, Gary started a construction business with his brother and moved to Phoenix, Ariz. In 2008, after selling the business, he decided to move back to Seattle to be closer to his family.
Married for more than 30 years, Gary has three children and two grandchildren. He enjoys snow and water skiing, hiking, and motorcycle riding, including drag racing and closed course road racing.
Gary’s advice to other operators: “Driving defensively is more than just being safe, be on the offense.”
Passenger praise: “I have been on Gary’s bus many times, and each time he gives the same level of wonderful service. He is fantastic! and has a personality that every person on planet Earth would love to have!”
North Base | April 2023: Daniell Nelson
Daniell started with Metro as a part-time operator in 2018 and went full-time a year later. She is a Safe Driver Award recipient and has earned four commendations.
Born and raised in Everett, Daniell worked as a trained massage therapist and esthetician. She wanted a new adventure once her three children were grown up. Therefore, she decided to apply to become a Transit Operator.
Daniell will soon be entering the Metro’s Supervisor-in-Training program and is looking forward to the new challenges.
Daniell’s advice to other operators: “Share a smile, you never know when it will brighten someone’s day.”
Passenger praise: “Great driver. Amazingly kind, always courteous and polite. Safe as can be with her driving and always careful.”
Ryerson Base | March 2023: Kirk Anderson
Kirk joined Metro as a part-time operator in 2003 and went full time in 2006. He has earned multiple Safe Driver Awards and six commendations.
Born and raised in Seattle, Kirk graduated from Ballard High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Washington.
He joined Metro with a desire to serve the public.
The proud father of two adult children, Kirk is an avid sports enthusiast who enjoys bicycling, skiing, and playing the guitar.
Kirk’s advice to other operators: “Kindness and patience will reward you at Metro and in your personal life.”
Passenger praise: “I have been riding transit post-covid for a few months and just wanted to say thank you to all the drivers, but tonight Kirk is who inspired me to write a comment. I really appreciate the work they do, how they show kindness, compassion, and especially patience.”
Ryerson Base | April 2023: Steven Clark
Steven has been with Metro since 2019. He is a Safe Driver Award recipient and has received two commendations.
Steven was born in Flint, Mich., and went to school at Vanderbilt University and the University of Houston. Prior to his role as an operator, he spent 20 years in the restaurant business and another 20 years in the trade show industry.
Steven is married with two kids and enjoys sailing and bicycling.
Steven’s advice to other operators: “Spread the seeds of goodwill, don’t take work home with you, and watch for pedestrians.”
Passenger praise: “The driver professionally and respectfully greeted passengers in a genuinely friendly manner. He was kind and courteous, and the physical bus ride was smooth.”
South Base | March 2023: September Carpenter
September joined King County Metro as a part-time operator in 2016 and went full-time in 2017. She has earned several Safe Driver Awards and four commendations.
September is a proud mother of a 21-year-old daughter who attends Eastern Washington University. In her free time, she enjoys watching good movies and shopping.
September’s advice to other operators: “Always smile, and take care of yourself!”
Passenger praise: “She was an amazing driver. She was very kind and mindful of all those coming on and off the bus, a wonderful woman, an absolute charm.”
South Base | April 2023: Leland Laird
Leland joined Metro as a part-time operator in 1996 and went full-time in 1998. He has earned several Safe Driver Awards and has received two commendations.
Born in Seattle and a graduate of Glacier High School in Tukwila, Leland earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Washington.
Leland and his wife are raising one grandchild.
In his free time, he enjoys barbecuing, traveling to Nevada, and working on home improvement projects.
Leland’s advice to other operators: “Drive your coach as if you are always on camera, and you’ll be on the five o’clock news, where your mom and base chief will see it!”
Passenger praise: “Leland is very professional. And he is very nice to all passengers getting on the bus.”
Every month, operators from King County Metro’s seven transit bases select an Operator of the Month. Each demonstrates safe driving skills, is courteous and helpful, and pays conscientious attention to attendance appearance and discipline.
Please join us in congratulating them. Our Operators of the Month later vote on who among them will be chosen as Metro’s Operator of the Year!