Ever since receiving her driver’s license at 16, Stacy Meeth has liked to drive.
Over the years, the 48-year-old Bradenton resident and mother of three has driven vehicles including tow trucks, tractor trailers and school buses. But most recently, Meeth has been behind the wheel of Manatee County Area Transit buses.
“I am a people person anyway and I like to drive so the two just go hand in hand here with driving the bus,” Meeth said at the Downtown Bradenton station on Wednesday morning.
With 25 years of professional driving experience, Meeth, who has been with MCAT for more than three years, has clocked more than one million miles with no accidents. Earlier this month, Meeth was named Florida’s 2016 Transit Operator of the Year by Florida Public Transportation Association.
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It’s a phenomenal group of people that genuinely care about each other and the community and want to do their best.
Stacy Meeth, MCAT driver
“It was very overwhelming,” said Meeth, who didn’t know she was going to receive the award until the night of the banquet in Jacksonville. “I was very humbled, very honored. I have a lot of support from my family, my friends, from Manatee County government. My coworkers, supervisors, upper management have been absolutely wonderful, encouraging me to be the person that I am, the best I can be.”
MCAT drivers have been named the state’s top operator for the last two years. David Simpson, Manatee County’s 2015 Employee of the Year, won the award in 2015.
“Having Manatee County transit operators win this award in consecutive years demonstrates a very highly qualified and competent group of Manatee County Transit Division employees,” said Bill Steele, transit division manager. “Not only that, operators such as David Simspon, James Hamilton (2015 paratransit operator of the year) and Stacy Meeth demonstrate their commitment to the community through compassionate, caring and safe service delivery.”
It speaks volumes about Manatee County that MCAT won the award twice in a row, Meeth said.
“It’s a phenomenal group of people that genuinely care about each other and the community and want to do their best,” she said.
Route 4 homecoming
While now a Handy Bus driver, Meeth returned to her regular Route 4 bus on Wednesday. Before leaving from the Downtown Bradenton station, Meeth hung her purse and adjusted the seat and steering wheel.
“I’m definitely excited to have the opportunity to see my people again today,” she said, adding that she misses them.
The 11:05 a.m. bus was quiet, but before turning west on Manatee Avenue from the transit station, Meeth said, “It feels good to be back up here.”
As Meeth approached stops on the route, which serves Bradenton, she would announce the stops. “43rd.” “Next stop CVS Cortez.” “51st.” “G.T. Bray.”
For Meeth, the people are the reason she loves what she does.
“It’s getting to know all the people,” she said. “There are so many people that ride the bus that come from so many different walks of life and it is really neat to have the opportunity to sit down and to just get to know these people. ... I’m just blessed. I am blessed by the people that ride my bus. I have a phenomenal group of people on that route.”
Meeth sets a great example for others to follow, Steele said.
“I have found Stacy to be a truly exceptional person that takes great pride in caring for her family and completing her work in a consistently outstanding manner,” he said. “Stacy’s Operator of the Year award demonstrates not only her excellence as a public transit professional, but it is also recognition that she is a truly outstanding member of the community.”
The Operator of the Year award is not the only recognition Meeth has received in 2016. In September, Meeth was awarded a heroism award from the county commission for stopping her Route 4 bus to shield a fallen motorcyclist from oncoming traffic until first responders arrived.
“I’m just doing my job, being myself,” Meeth said. “I’m completely right at home at the bus. I like to drive and I like people so it’s the perfect combination.”
As Meeth pulled back into Downtown Bradenton station shortly after noon Wednesday, she announced the stop: “next stop downtown station.”
“Thank you for riding with MCAT and have a super day.”