OC Brings On New Transit Head With Local Ties

OCEAN CITY — After a lengthy search including interviews with several qualified candidates, the Town of Ocean City last week announced the hiring of a new transit manager with ties to Delmarva.

The town last week announced Mark Rickards has been hired as transit manager after a months-long search. Rickards brings 30 years of experience to the position including his most recent experience as director of public transportation for the city of Greenville, S.C.

As transit manager, Rickards will oversee the resort’s transportation division including a fleet of nearly 70 buses, eight Boardwalk trams with 24 tram cars and 250 employees. He will direct and oversee the operations and planning of the division as well as function as the town’s lead representative to the Maryland Transit Authority and the Federal Transit Administration.

In addition, he will direct recruitment efforts to secure adequate staffing levels for seasonal and year-round operations. Ocean City Public Works Director Hal Adkins said the process for vetting and ultimately hiring a new transit manager was challenging, but he is convinced the resort found the right man for the job.

“Although the journey to hire a new transit manager took longer than initially expected, it was certainly worth the wait,” he said. “Not only does Mark have vast experience in the world of transit, but he also has profound knowledge and roots to the Eastern Shore and will surely by a good fit for our organization. We are excited to have his familiarity with public transit systems as well as his knowledge and partnerships with federal, state and regional governments to improve transportation resources in Ocean City.”

Rickards’ professional experience includes various positions of transportation leadership as well as an understanding of tourist-driven destinations. Before joining the city of Greenville in 2012, Rickards was the executive director of the Williamsburg Area Transit Authority and transportation engineer for the Richmond Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

With bachelor’s degrees in political science and history from High Point University and a masters in regional planning with specialization in transportation planning and modeling from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Rickards’ professional career is now taking him back to his roots.

“I grew up in Frankford, Del. and graduated from Indian River High School there,” he said. “I have always desired to come home to Delmarva. I am eager to get started and bring my experience in transportation to the Eastern Shore. Ocean City has an outstanding transportation system and I am excited to work closely with the Mayor and Council, the staff and the transportation committee to make our services even better for our residents and guests.”

Rickards comes on board during the peak of the summer season and much of the resort’s transportation issues have been resolved thanks in large part to yeoman’s work by Acting Superintendent of Transportation Wayne Pryor, Adkins and the staff and committee. Rickards will hope to continue that momentum when he takes over the reins.

For example, the resort’s transit system enjoyed one of its best seasons ever last year thanks to a concerted effort to improve morale in the bus drivers and staff and perhaps more importantly improve the public’s confidence in the municipal bus system. It started with a stepped-up driver recruitment and hiring campaign, which, in turn allowed for greater deployment, reducing wait times and expanding the number of buses on the streets.

For example, from a five-year low of just 120 drivers in 2014, that number has steadily increased to meet the demands of the stepped-up deployment schedule. For example, there were 138 drivers in 2012, 137 in 2013 and just 120 in 2014. However, that number spiked up to 150 in 2015 and the hope is for at least 155 this year after some are lost to attrition and others complete the training and hit the streets.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.