After nearly 40 years of dedicated service, TCAT Operations Manager Nancy Oltz will officially retire today, February 17.
The TCAT Board of Directors at its monthly meeting on Thurs. Feb., 23, is expected to honor Oltz by approving a resolution in appreciation of her years of service.
Oltz's successor is Scot Vanderpool, former Syracuse University Manager of Parking and Transit Services, who prior to that was Manager of Operations and Planning at Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (CENTRO) in Syracuse.
Indeed, it is difficult to sum up the many contributions Oltz has made to local public transportation, but she most assuredly will leave an indelible mark on a community she has served whole-heartedly for four decades. Ask Oltz's coworkers and anyone who knows her to describe her and you will hear, to name a few, such adjectives as: 'dedicated,' 'hard-working,' 'amazing,' 'awesome,' 'strong,' 'generous,' 'graceful.' She also earned the informal sobriquet as TCAT's "Goddess of All," which a coworker placed in her nameplate outside her office door several years ago.
In the annals of TCAT history, an oft-repeated story about Oltz is about the time she wanted to know more about the maintenance department. To do so, she actually pitched in on the third shift with mechanics to help with preventative maintenance on buses. At the end of the overnight shift, she was soaked in grease. She went home, showered, donned her business attire and went back to the office to attend her daily duties of making sure routes were running normally, safely and on time. "She would get right out there and work with everybody," one mechanic said.
Oltz knows public transportation on all levels, because she has experienced it on all levels. She started out in public transportation in July, 1977, when she became a bus operator for Ithaca Transit, then the City of Ithaca's transit system. She was promoted to senior bus driver in 1984; Transit System Assistant in 1993 and then Transit System Manager in 1995. In 1992, the City of Ithaca, Cornell University and Tompkins County established an Operations Committee to begin the process of consolidating three transit systems, Ithaca Transit, CU Transit and TOMTRAN into one system.
One of Oltz's duties included serving on a committee for the construction of the Ithaca-Tompkins Transit Center, which opened here in November of 1992 to house all three transit systems as well as Gadabout under one roof. In 1998, all three signed a joint venture agreement at which time Oltz was promoted to Operations and Maintenance Manager.
In 2007, two years after TCAT became a private, not-for-profit corporation, Oltz was named TCAT, Inc.'s Service Development Manager, responsible for planning routes and for helping to shepherd TCAT's Transportation Development Plan, a major project implemented in 2010 to streamline and make our system more efficient. In 2011, Oltz became TCAT's Operations Manager.
In addition to her many duties, Oltz serves on the Board of Directors for Gadabout Transportation Services, with whom TCAT contracts with to provide paratransit services. She has also served on the New York Public Transit Association Board of Directors and the TCAT board itself. She has spent an enormous amount of her free time on the annual New York State Bus Roadeo. She represents TCAT on the Tompkins County Emergency Management Planning Committee, of which she chaired a sub-committee to revise the transportation section of the county's emergency plan. She is also a member of the Women's Opportunity Center's Board of Directors.
The daughter of the late Michael and Betty Vasteno, Oltz was born and raised in Ithaca along with her younger sister, Jill. She married her husband Bob right out of high school and they are happily celebrating their 47th anniversary this year. They have a daughter, Tammy, who they admire for her many accomplishments, a son-in-law who is a 'super guy' and 'like a son,' and two beautiful granddaughters whom they adore and who are already mapping out plans to spend time with both their grandparents now that their grandmother will have more time.
Oltz likes to joke that she lives in a small world since she has only lived in Ithaca and later Enfield, (after she and Bob were married), and worked at the same place for so many years. "Looking back, I would not trade any of it," she said.
Neither would her coworkers who rely on Oltz's vast reservoir of knowledge about public transit and the Tompkins County community. Not only has Oltz helped out her coworkers with advice, problem solving and encouragement, but she kept them supplied with chocolate in her office, which is always open to them. Oltz's favorite quote is from her father who was her role model; she deeply admired his strong work ethic and family values. "He once said to me that when you give 110 percent, no one can expect more of you, not even you," she said. For the past few weeks, Oltz has been working with Vanderpool to acquaint him with his duties of leading TCAT's operations team. Vanderpool starting out his extensive career in transportation driving a bus for CENTRO upon his graduation from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University where he studied broadcast journalism.
At the time, Vanderpool said it was very difficult to find a job in broadcasting so he turned his ambitions toward growing a career in transit and "lucky for me, I enjoy the transportation industry."
To be sure, Vanderpool has certainly proved a passion for transportation and over the years built very strong track record, first cutting his teeth driving for CENTRO in Syracuse where he worked from 1996 to 2003.
"It was an opportunity to work a job within the community while other opportunities in broadcasting were not available," Vanderpool said. Over the years, he worked his way up the ranks to the position of CENTRO's Manager of Operations and Planning.
In 2003, he was hired as Syracuse University's Manager of Parking and Transit Services, where he had the task of planning and coordinating all on-campus transportation. Among his many duties was balancing an annual 4.5 million dollar budget based on demand, statistical data and long- and short-term planning. He was instrumental in bringing rideshare, carshare and bikeshare to the university, and he also researched and implemented new technology including license plate recognition, a mobile tracking app and parking access control.
"Scot is a quick learner and has been an absolute joy to work with, and I know he will bring a great deal of knowledge and experience to help TCAT grow in the right direction," said Oltz. "I have no doubt everyone here is going to enjoy working with Scot; he has an easygoing personality."
Vanderpool's motivation for applying for the job was that "TCAT seemed to be a perfect fit due to my experience with both city transit (at CENTRO) and Syracuse University," he said. "I really want to make a difference, and to help TCAT to continue to improve. I will soon find out how much of a challenge that is going to be."
Positive traits the TCAT interview committee pointed out in selecting Vanderpool was his experience in building town-gown relationships as well as his track record of being active in the Syracuse community in developing strategic solutions to sustainability – experience that Vanderpool can apply at TCAT in its relationships with the local institutions of higher learning and with a very progressive community that embraces sustainable transportation.
"I really want to be involved in helping the community, whether it's the differently abled community or helping the urban population get to job sites," Vanderpool said. "I hope to continue to reach out and be involved in Tompkins County."