Art Hatcher Takes Helm for MTA in Fort Bragg
Last June, Art Hatcher stepped into the position of north coast operations supervisor for the Mendocino Transit Authority (MTA) bus company serving Mendocino County.
Both Hatcher—who has lived in Boonville for 40 years and commutes what he calls a scenic hour each way to Fort Bragg daily for the job—and MTA management gave the arrangement a trial period to make sure it would work. Hatcher had to fit into and learn to manage a team that had been self-sufficient during a period in between supervisors.
“It’s proven to be a good fit, and Art has been instrumental in pulling together our Fort Bragg operation and team of drivers,” said Carla Meyer, general manager of MTA.
Most of the time, Hatcher’s responsibilities revolve around scheduling drivers’ routes, managing fare income, payroll and service. While Fort Bragg’s bus operations feel far removed from management at headquarters in Ukiah, the goals of meeting the transportation needs of the community are the same.
The test of the team came eight months into Hatcher’s tenure when one driver was out on jury duty, another had to take his wife to the hospital and was with her for the rest of the week, and a third had a parent pass away. One-third of MTA’s nine north coast staff was absent, the bus staffing schedule was basically out the window, and Hatcher had no idea how they would manage regular bus service through the week.
“Bus service here is vital to those people we serve,” said Hatcher. He noted that metropolitan areas with larger populations have a lot more bus riders, but the importance of bus service to the relatively small Fort Bragg community is huge.
“There are people who can’t drive—or don’t drive—and they depend on us. We bring a person from the south coast up to Fort Bragg for dialysis almost every day. Many seniors don’t have cars. People have health issues. The people we provide this service for, they really depend on us,” he said.
Everybody—everybody—on the Fort Bragg MTA team pulled together during that tough week, and they had to stretch beyond their comfort zone in some cases, Hatcher said. Every single driver pitched in and went well above and beyond her or his normal duties. Hatcher himself drove a bus every day. At the end of the week, they’d done it—covered every bus, every route.
“To me, it was a ‘wow’ experience,” said Hatcher. “Instead of pulling my hair out, I got to watch our team work together to figure out how to fill in the gaps in our service.”
Hatcher is a licensed pilot but hasn’t flown much since he sold his plane almost 20 years ago to buy two acres of land and build a house in Boonville. Flying runs in his family: His father and two brothers are pilots. Hatcher took to planes by using money he saved by quitting smoking to treat himself to flying lessons. That led to more lessons, a license, and his own plane. One of these days soon, he says, he’s looking to take it up again.
For a link to this announcement in the Fort Bragg Advocate-News, click here: https://www.advocate-news.com/2019/03/28/ftb-l-mta-0328/