Courier Staff Writer
Ottumwa Transit’s executive director has resigned just short of nine months after she was hired.
Diane Gawronski submitted her letter of resignation on Thursday. It will take effect Jan. 5, 2013.
“The reason I left is ... I have enjoyed working with three of the Ottumwa Transit Advisory Board members,” she said.
There are currently five members serving on the board: Robert LaPoint, Shannon Addison, Nick Davis, Linda McClure and Larry Williams.
Gawronski would not elaborate on any problems she had with the board.
“My plan was to remain in my position until retirement,” she said. “I am very sad to leave.”
Gawronski had been approved as the new transit director last March at an Ottumwa City Council meeting.
Operations Manager Dave Silverio has been appointed interim director until the position can be filled. The city has started advertising for a replacement and is hoping to have a new director hired in February.
“We’ll look for somebody that is also going to reach out to other communities and has strong management skills,” said Ottumwa City Administrator Joe Helfenberger of the city’s search for a new director. “Experience in public transit is also extremely helpful.”
Gawronski said she is proud of the many accomplishments she made during her time at Ottumwa Transit.
“I am very passionate about public transit, and I worked diligently to make improvements and introduced some new initiatives,” she said. “I think I have always kept employees and riders as my primary focus. I care very deeply about them. I tried to make the transit experience more pleasant for the employees and all of the riders.”
During Gawronski’s time in the position, ridership increased dramatically from the previous year. In Friday’s Courier, it was reported that from October 2011 to October 2012, ridership had jumped by more than 8,000.
“We really appreciate the job Diane did,” Helfenberger said. “She took a service that was struggling a year ago and is very strong right now.”
Helfenberger said he had no comment Friday on Gawronski’s reasons for leaving.
Ottumwa Transit also began a route review this year with the help of Bob Bourne, retired Ames Transit System administrator. The goal is to examine the current bus routes and decide where changes need to be made and whether the downtown bus shelter needs a new home.
Nine bus racks were installed on buses this year thanks to funds from a Community Transformation Grant awarded to Wapello County Public Health.
Gawronski and the 10-15 Transit Advisory Board had also been looking at ways to grow ridership regionally, including a prepaid voucher system at Mahaska County at Love In The Name Of Christ (Love INC) and Mahaska Health Partnership.
Ottumwa Transit and 10-15 Transit have been working their way back to normalcy after being rocked by charter and ridership violations in May 2011 that led to the firings of the organizations’ top two officials, Pam Ward and Tom Jones.
The next month, Mark Hagist was appointed as the interim director. 10-15 Transit began repaying approximately $423,000 to the Iowa Department of Transportation related to the violations.
“It has been a genuine pleasure to work with everyone affiliated with the 10-15 Regional Transit Agency, and I feel I have enjoyed a cordial and professional relationship with all of those board members,” Gawronski said.
Before coming to Ottumwa, Gawronski had served as a board member in establishing a transit system in Vicksburg, Miss.
“I wish both transit organizations the best in moving their operations forward. I feel that their success is critical to the quality of life of the riders in our communities.”
Gawronski said she plans to stay in Ottumwa and find a new job. Her husband, Larry, is the executive director of Bridge View Center.
“I’m sad. I’m very sad,” she said. “I had planned to stay there throughout the rest of my career.”