Happy Trails to you, Charles!
After almost 17 years of dedicated service to our Transportation Department, Charles Leach retired on June 3, 2019. During his time at ECMHSP, Charles led the transition of our transportation services from center based to a centralized department and established a safety record of over 11 million miles of service without an at-fault accident. Before his last day, we conducted a phone interview to learn more about his story.
How did you begin your career at ECMHSP?
I answered a wanted ad in a newspaper for a Transportation Specialist position. I started around 2002. I have a background in transportation coming from the military side. I spent almost 28 years in the United States Air Force. I also spent almost 10 years in the trucking industry as a small fleet operator. Due to circumstances beyond my control, the place went out of business, so I was looking for an interim job that I could have income coming in. In my opinion, ECMHSP fit that plan at the time, but that quite didn’t work out. I started enjoying the job here and the challenges it presented. I had to interact with some of the children that were on the bus routes. There’s one instance that comes to mind at the ECMHSP Long Creek Center. One day, we were waiting for the buses to load for the afternoon. Suddenly, this three-year-old girl comes running, hugs me, and says thank you. I took that to mean the child really appreciated the work we were doing. I had probably ridden her bus route before.
What is your fondest memory at ECMHSP?
Being able to get new and modern buses was a big accomplishment. Also, being able to recruit and retain high-quality bus drivers. The training we gave the lead bus drivers. We got to build a foundation and continue to improve on that foundation.
Throughout these years, how did you maintain strong relationships with ECMHSP staff?
Being visible and technically competent. Doing my job right.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome in your position?
My biggest challenge was the lack of trained bus drivers and enough up-to-date buses. We had some buses that were more than 15 years old. Regulation compliance was also a big challenge. We had up to 19 trainings yearly that would require a lot of time.
What will you miss the most about working for ECMHSP?
I’ve had very good team members. Our bus drivers have a sense of accomplishment. The administrative staff that we have here at Wilson. This includes: Akeya Barrett, Glenn Dora Calhaun, and Jennifer Graham. They make sure everything gets accomplished on time.
What was the most difficult part about your decision to retire?
Dealing with my wife. She’s been trying to get me to retire for the last five years. She’s coming up with her to-do list.
What advice would you give to a new employee at ECMHSP?
To maintain their self-discipline and integrity. Do things the way they’re supposed to be done.
What do you look forward to now that you’re retiring?
Having free time and no responsibilities. Enjoying the days as they come. When I look back at my whole time here, even though there’s been a lot of challenges, it’s also given me a huge sense of accomplishment.
Without a doubt, Charles will be missed greatly! ECMHSP thanks him for all his accomplishments to better our Transportation Department.