Living way up in Alaska hasn't kept Steve Kalmes from being an integral part of pupil transportation affairs in the Lower 48.
Indeed, the longtime director of transportation services for Anchorage School District has not only served as president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), he has attended the annual conference for more than 30 years in a row.
Kalmes told SBF in a recent interview that he plans to retire in July, nearly four decades after he began his career in school transportation.
Kalmes, a Navy veteran, got his start in the industry in the mid-'70s when he took a job as a school bus driver while attending the University of Kansas.
He advanced to management positions in Kansas and Missouri before relocating to Anchorage to head up the district’s pupil transportation department, a position he has held since 1985.
As a member of NAPT, Kalmes has served as a regional director and as president from 2003 to 2005.
One of Kalmes' key contributions to the association has been his work on the NAPT Professional Development Series (PDS). He has served as chair of the PDS committee for more than 10 years.
The program helps pupil transportation professionals build their skills in a variety of areas, such as leadership, communications, financial management and special-needs transportation.
Over the past few years, the association has been working to make the PDS courses — of which there are around three dozen — available online.
Kalmes also oversees an exemplary operation at Anchorage. With about 238 route buses, it is one of SBF's Top 100 School District Fleets. About a third of the buses are the district's own; the rest are contracted.
Driver training is a strong component of Anchorage’s program, especially because the schools rarely shut down for snowy weather conditions. This year, the area was hit by record snowfall: more than 134 inches.
The district's drivers undergo a minimum of 40 hours of training — half in the classroom and half in the field. They also often spend a few days with an experienced driver after training and before driving on a route alone.
In 2007, SBF named Kalmes its Administrator of the Year.
Although he will be retiring from his district position in July, Kalmes said he will remain active in the industry.
"I'll do a little consulting and expert witness work," he said. "And I'll be at the NAPT conference. I think this will be my 32nd year in a row."