Strait Shot designer resigns from Clallam Transit

Steve Hopkins

Steve Hopkins

PORT ANGELES — Steve Hopkins, Clallam Transit operations and planning manager and architect of the Strait Shot bus service to Bainbridge Island, has announced that he will resign next Wednesday.

Hopkins, who began with the agency in October 2016, said Monday he was stepping down for “personal reasons” and would not elaborate.

“I’d prefer not to share that in the paper,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins submitted a letter of resignation to Kevin Gallacci, Clallam Transit general manager, on Nov. 26, offering to help with the succession plan.

“I appreciate the opportunities provided to me by Clallam Transit,” Hopkins wrote.

“It is my hope that the agency will continue to enjoy success as it serves the mobility needs of Clallam County’s residents and visitors.”

In a Tuesday interview, Gallacci said Hopkins chose to resign and that Clallam Transit will recruit a successor beginning next month.

Maintenance Manager Mike Oliver has agreed to serve as acting operations manager, he said.

“Steve is choosing to resign and move on something else,” Gallacci said in a telephone interview.

“He’s done a lot of great things.”

Gallacci addressed the departure at the Transit board meeting Monday.

“Thank you, Steve, for all the contributions you’ve made to our service and outreach throughout the county,” Gallacci said.

“I know a lot of folks have appreciated it, and me as well.”

Three speakers raised concerns about the resignation in the public comment portion of the meeting.

Port Angeles Mayor Sissi Bruch, a former Transit board member, said the move “speaks to major issues in this organization.”

“That there is an environment where one of our most effective and transformational employees needs to leave, it’s a disservice to all of us because he’s really made a huge difference in our community,” Bruch said.

“Please take a hard look at the workings of this organization so that we can keep great employees and thrive as a community instead of going backwards and relegating Transit to the back burner where it was before Mr. Hopkins stepped up and showed us a better way.”

When asked to respond to Bruch’s comments, Gallacci said: “We’ll continue to work with the city of Port Angeles in many areas, as we have all long at many levels.”

After the meeting, Hopkins said he was not forced to resign.

When asked if his resignation had to do with a conflict with management, Hopkins said: “No comment.”

“It’s been both a pleasure and an honor to serve the public of Clallam County,” Hopkins said in his Port Angeles office.

“It’s my hope that both the public and the people that I work with viewed me as a good public servant who was committed to designing and providing the best possible transit service that I could.”

Hopkins was named 2017 Clallam Transit Employee of the Year, becoming the first manager in the history of the organization to receive that award.

Shortly after being hired from Spokane Transit Authority and Flix Bus, Hopkins began to design a twice-daily direct bus route from downtown Port Angeles to the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal.

With approval from the Clallam Transit board, the Strait Shot was launched in June 2017, becoming a successful out-of-boundary service that recorded nearly 14,000 passenger trips in 2018 alone.

Ridership on the No. 123 Strait Shot is up 30 percent this year, Hopkins said.

“To go from essentially a thought on a Post-it note to service on the road in seven months was surprising but exciting at the same time,” Hopkins said.

In addition to the Strait Shot, Hopkins implemented other system changes to achieve cost savings and route efficiencies. He introduced a mobile ticketing option for customers with smart phones.

Hopkins, who rides the bus nearly everywhere he travels, has been known to jump behind the wheel of a bus to maintain service during emergencies, according to his Employee of the Year citation.

During last Friday’s windstorm that knocked out power to all of Clallam County, Hopkins “took the helm” in the dispatch center, which allowed a union-represented dispatcher to operate a bus, said Ed Stanard, a non-voting board member representing Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 587.

“He did a wonderful job,” Stanard told the board. “All the employees commented on how well he did.”

In addition to his duties at Transit, Hopkins had served on the Port Angeles Planning Commission and regularly attends City Council meetings to report on Clallam Transit ridership, service improvements and community outreach.

“He has made council and staff aware of the Transit issues that we have neglected to address as well as making Transit inclusive for all,” Bruch said.

“No wonder ridership numbers have continuously increased under his leadership.”

Clallam Transit Board Chairman Mark Ozias, a Clallam County commissioner, said he spoke privately with Hopkins about his resignation.

“I understand his reasons for leaving and I respect them,” Ozias said at the meeting.

“Having said that, I also want to add that I am confident that the entire leadership team here at Clallam Transit, and I mean the entire leadership team, fully understands the value that Steve has brought to this agency in his time here.”

Hopkins said he had no immediate plans for the future.

“I believe that I have skills that are of value,” Hopkins said. “It’s my hope that there’s a community out there that I’ll be able to serve who shares my core values regarding transit.”

Hopkins said he was most proud of the “team of professionals that puts services like the Strait Shot out on the road every day.”

“I believe I lead my team in a way that provides them with the tools and the support and the opportunities that they need to be successful,” Hopkins said.

“When I do that, then they’re successful out on the road, and that improves the service that we provide to the community.”

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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