SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Changes are afoot at West County Transportation Agency, with a new leader coming on board and a fleet that will soon grow by nearly a third.
The agency is a public cooperative that provides transportation service for 16 school districts in Northern California's Sonoma County, known for its bountiful vineyards, towering redwoods and sweeping Russian River.
West County Transportation Agency's board announced this week that Chad Barksdale has been named transitional executive director. The appointment comes as the agency's longtime executive director, Mike Rea, prepares to retire next year.
Barksdale, a native of Southern California, has served as a school transportation official in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the past 14 years. Most recently, he was transportation director for Widefield School District 3.
Rea told SBF that he and Barksdale will have a year of overlap and transition before Rea's retirement at the end of February 2017.
"Chad is a talented individual, and I am so pleased that our board has allowed this full-year transition to occur," Rea said.
Another development on the horizon for West County Transportation Agency is the addition of a new member district, Santa Rosa City Schools, beginning July 1. That change means big growth for the agency's fleet, which will expand from 160 school buses to about 210. Also, the agency's number of routes will essentially double.
Rea has served as executive director of West County Transportation Agency since it was formed in 1988. Then, there were seven member school districts; now, there are 16.
"That growth is a testament to our reputation of quality service and cost containment," Rea said. "Economy of scale has helped us create efficiencies in purchasing, vehicle maintenance, but mostly in cooperative routing."
In 2011, West County Transportation Agency won an award for its efforts to reduce emissions, which have included adopting alternative fuels and retrofitting older diesel buses with particulate traps. The agency was also named one of SBF's "Great Fleets Across America" in 2001.