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November 01, 2005  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

20 Fascinating Personalities (Part 4)

More remarkable people from across the pupil transportation industry.

by SBF staff editors Steve Hirano, Thomas McMahon and Albert Neal

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Karen Strickland and her dog, Jody, enjoy a moment in the great outdoors.

Karen Strickland and her dog, Jody, enjoy a moment in the great outdoors.

Karen Strickland

General Manager of Transportation, School District of Hillsborough County (Fla.)

Born: Pompton Plains, N.J.
Home: Plant City, Fla.
Years in industry: 23
Notable previous jobs: I worked as an office manager for an auto glass distributor. One job I’ll never forget: driving students to and from school.

How did you get your start in the industry?
I started out with a side job as a bus driver. I transported students for three-and-a-half years, after which I applied for a routing supervisor position and got the job.

Current job duties?
I’m the general manager of transportation at the School District of Hillsborough County. With the help of key individuals, we transport more than 90,000 students twice daily. Our department consists of approximately 1,500 employees, including mechanics, custodians, bus drivers, bus attendants, clerical staff members and supervisors.

Top achievements in life?
Our district respects and supports our department. This has been achieved by becoming accountable and successful in designing and implementing strategic goals for the district.

Outside interests?
I love to read. However, often there is little time to do so.

Favorite book or movie?
My favorite book is Sacagawea by Marion Marsh Brown. She was so courageous. What an endeavor for her to lead Lewis and Clark through their expeditions!

Most interesting place you’ve been?
Several years ago, my husband and I traveled to the Grand Canyon. It was the first time I saw this magnificent work of art. Unbelievable!

Strangest job you’ve had?
While in college, I worked at the Jolly Green Giant plant processing corn. We worked 12 hour shifts, rotating between night and day shifts every two weeks. The day of the shift change, we worked 18 hours. For years afterward, I hated corn!

Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
People are surprised to learn that I’m an antique car enthusiast. My husband and I enjoy going to car shows with his 1926 Ford one-ton truck.



Leonard Swilley took a job as a school bus driver during college. He's been involved in pupil transportation ever since.

Leonard C. Swilley, Sr.

State Director of Pupil Transportation, Mississippi Department of Education

Born: Flint, Mich.
Home: Jackson, Miss.
Years in industry: 18
Notable previous jobs: School bus driver, mechanic’s assistant, dispatcher, assistant supervisor (local terminal), supervisor (local terminal), store clerk and shoe salesman.

How did you get your start in the industry?
I was a college student with limited finances and a lot of spare time. My roommate encouraged me to drive a school bus since it wouldn’t interfere with my classes and I could earn some additional finances. After about four months of pondering, I applied for a substitute school bus driver position and was subsequently hired to drive the bus. I’ve been involved in school transportation ever since.

Current job duties?
As a state employee, I wear many hats. Currently, I serve as state director of pupil transportation for the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE). My other duties include establishing policies and procedures for school districts, training school bus drivers and providing other technical support to Mississippi school districts as needed. Additionally, I serve as a board member for the Mississippi Operation Lifesaver, as well as president of the local PTO at my children’s school.

Top achievements in life?
Being a part of the MDE team, being the youngest person to serve as transportation supervisor in the state while working in the local school district. Also, I was in charge of the second largest school bus fleet in the state of Mississippi.

I’ve been married for 14 years and have two wonderful children, Ebonee (13) and Leonard Jr. (10).

Favorite book or movie?
I enjoy watching movies that feature actors Wendy Raquel Robinson, Halle Berry and Denzel Washington. My all-time favorite movie is Remember the Titans. It depicts challenges that we all face in life.

Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a huge football fan. I once had aspirations of being a professional football player. I enjoy watching Jackson State Tiger football and am a diehard fan of the Dallas Cowboys. My kids and I spend a lot of time throwing the football, running plays and even tackling each other.

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