Bud Williams of Wheelchair Transport Service of Clearwater has been named the 2013 Paratransit and Contracting Operator of the Year.
The award comes from the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, which said in a press release that Williams' "commitment to helping his community, especially during natural disasters," was among the reasons he won the award.
"Serving our community is part of the job description," Williams said. "When FEMA gives us a call about a need, we act immediately. During Hurricane Ike in Texas, FEMA called and within 24 hours we had 10 taxicabs on the road, all driven by volunteer drivers."
Alfred LaGasse, CEO of the association, said Williams was the obvious choice for this year's award because of his dedication to the industry.
"This family-owned business is truly one to be emulated," LaGasse said. "Not many owners can say they serve as an integral part in natural disaster relief efforts."
The award was presented to Williams last week before nearly 1,000 industry leaders at the association's 95th annual convention in Boston. The convention is the world's largest gathering of for-hire fleet executives, according to the association.
Williams has spent nearly his entire professional life in the transportation industry, beginning in the emissions testing department of Ford Motor Co. After he moved to Florida to work with his father at his wheelchair-accessible taxicab company, Williams realized he had found his passion.
He and his brothers now run Wheelchair Transport Service. Williams' wife, Lisa, did payroll and benefits administration in the company for many years, and his daughter, Claire, works in the company's billing department.
Williams said the company recently purchased a Jacksonville taxicab company that operates 60 vehicles. He said they plan to expand the availability of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in that area.
The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, which was established in 1917, includes 1,100 taxicab companies, executive sedan and limousine services, airport shuttle fleets, nonemergency medical transportation companies and paratransit services.
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The Clearwater Bar Association has announced the winners of its 2013 Law Day poster contest for third- and fourth-graders in north Pinellas.
Posters had to be based on this year's Law Day theme, "Realizing the Dream: Equality for All."
More than 400 posters from nine schools were submitted this year, as children in north Pinellas embraced the theme.
"They have very strong feelings about racism," said north Pinellas lawyer David R. Ellis, who manages the poster contest each year.
Clearwater Bar representatives visited the schools to talk about the theme, tracing the equality movement from the creation of the Declaration of Independence to today, and to educate students about the legal system and government.
First-place winners received $50 from the Clearwater Bar Foundation and a blue ribbon. All posters were exhibited at the Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater.
The winners were picked by Circuit Court Judges Patricia A. Muscarella and Walter L. Schafer Jr, and lawyer Donald S. Crowell.
Third-grade winners are:
First place: Nikolas Swierk, Cypress Woods Elementary.
Second place: Alyssa Clymer, Cypress Woods Elementary.
Third place: Amaya Lopez, Highland Lakes Elementary.
First place: Madelyn Naviaux, Belcher Elementary.
Second place: Harrison Povey, Curtis Fundamental Elementary.
Third place: Seren Strassenreiter, Curtis Fundamental Elementary.
While the poster contest is just for third- and fourth-graders, middle school students participate in an essay contest and high school students compete in debates.
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Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche was among about 20 leaders from Florida recognized Oct. 21 by Gov. Rick Scott as a top community leader.
Roche and the other honorees were invited to a private reception and dinner with the governor and first lady at the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee.
Roche was accompanied by his daughter, Megan, a graduate student and teaching assistant at Florida State University. She is working toward her master's degree in communications and religious studies.
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