Pinellas drivers are familiar with the challenges of getting from Point A to Point B on any given day. There's construction to maneuver through, traffic backups at rush hour, emergency vehicles needing to get by, bicyclists with unpredictable road ethics and pedestrians who don't always use the crosswalk.
PSTA bus operator Dave Beck of St. Petersburg sees it all. He spends eight hours a day behind the wheel of a transit bus and, as of this year, has driven more than 2.5 million miles without causing an accident.
"For the nation's bus operators, making it through an entire eight-hour shift interacting with the public, negotiating ever-changing traffic conditions and staying on time is a feat..." said PSTA chief operating officer James Bradford.
"Mr. Beck's focus on safety over his career is absolutely incredible," added PSTA CEO Brad Miller. "He is the best role model for not only all our almost 400 bus drivers but also the other 180 men and women that work for PSTA. It shows we have to focus on the details of our job each and every day — especially on our top priority, which in Dave's case is the safety of his precious customers."
Beck began his career with the St. Petersburg Municipal Transit System in 1975, driving a GMC 800 bus that had no power steering or air conditioning. Bus fare was dropped into a box and Beck counted out change from a belt-mounted change holder.
He now drives diesel-electric hybrid SmartBuses with advanced, computer-controlled transmissions, GPS tracking and ultra-clean emissions. Of the change in buses during his tenure, Beck said, "It's like going from a Model T to a Lexus."
According to PSTA's external affairs officer Bob Lasher, Beck currently drives two routes, 38 and 75, which include stops from Beach Drive NE in downtown St. Petersburg to Tyrone Square Mall.
"Drivers switch routes often," explained Lasher. "Three times a year they're part of a process which allows senior drivers first pick of any route of their choice in Pinellas County. They like the variety."
Not every year of his total tenure has been counted in the 35 years of safe driving. A few are missing for reasons including training and one year, 2000, when he accidentally hit the mirror of his bus against another at a terminal.
"We absolutely hated having to assign that as a preventable accident, but we had to be fair," said PSTA safety, security and training manager Walt Lenz. "Nonetheless, he still has the most amazing driving record we've ever seen, bar none."
"Every day is an adventure," said Beck, who continues to greet passengers with a smile and friendly attitude. "You never know who you're going to meet and it keeps the job enjoyable."
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During a ceremony May 1 at the Dunedin Community Center, the Dunedin Fire Department announced the promotion of Lt. Dewayne Fast to district chief, Lt. Eric Rodriguez to district chief, firefighter/paramedic Kevin Naylor to lieutenant and firefighter/paramedic Brandon Young to lieutenant.
In attendance were Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers, who administered the oath of office to all four individuals; Fire Chief Jeff Parks, who presented their badges to family members who in turn performed the badge pinning; and Deputy Fire Chief William "Trip" Barrs, who presented new helmets to each member.
A member of the department since October 1996, Fast was promoted to lieutenant in 2005 and selected as 2012 Firefighter of the Year.
Rodriguez has been with the department since January 2003. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2008 and selected as 2011 Firefighter of the Year.
Naylor has been with the department since January 2007.
Young was selected as 2006 Firefighter of the Year and has been with the department since July 2002.
The promotions are the result of recent retirements within the Fire Department and other officers being promoted to fill the vacancies.
All four newly promoted officers were introduced at the Dunedin City Commission meeting Thursday.
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