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TCAT board OKs new manager

SUNY-ESF alum Joseph J. Turcotte
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ANDREW TUTINO
Ithaca Journal Staff

ITHACA -- Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit Inc. has a new general manager after its board approved the hiring of a Charlotte, N.C., man on Thursday.

Joseph J. Turcotte, the superintendent of transportation/ administration for the Charlotte Area Transit System, was approved by a unanimous vote and will begin no later than March 1. His salary was not released because TCAT Inc. became a nonprofit corporation on Jan. 1 and is not obligated to release the figure, according to Henrik N. Dullea, a TCAT board member.

Turcotte, a Clayton native, said he was looking to move from a larger transportation system to a small one when he applied for TCAT's top position last summer.

"I wanted to go back to a smaller system," Turcotte said in an interview before the board meeting. "This was also an opportunity to head back toward family."

Before working in Charlotte, Turcotte was the service manager for Chatham Area Transit in Savannah from July 1994 to April 2002. Before that, he worked in California. He holds degrees from Jefferson Community College and the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.

Turcotte said when he begins his new position on March 1, he plans on being responsive to community needs from employees to riders.

"I need to find out what they need and want," he said. "I have to listen to them. There is a strong sense of community here. The key is to listen to people."

Turcotte was selected after a national search following the departure of Rod Ghearing last July. Ghearing left to become the head of the transit system in Grand Junction, Colo.

At Thursday's meeting, Turcotte gave brief remarks following his appointment. He said his management style will be to work with employees and riders and not dictate.

"What I really like to do is solve problems," he said. "I am not a heavy-handed person who is going to let everyone know I am the boss. I will listen and help them make decisions."

Dullea said Turcotte's selection was unanimous among the search committee.

"He's very thoughtful," Dullea said. "The search committee was very impressed with his day-to-day operational experience. He understands the problems and issues."

Turcotte said he understands there may be some concerns following the consolidation of unions at TCAT since it moved from a three-way partnership of Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca and Cornell University to a nonprofit organization on Jan. 1.

"I will be really sensitive to employee morale," Turcotte said. "There may be a lot of stress. I will listen and watch for ways to help."

New TCAT Board Chairman William Wendt said the bus system has a number of challenges ahead in 2005, though the two greatest challenges -- switching to a nonprofit and finding a general manager -- have been completed.

Among the challenges are lobbying for more state aid or possibly having to raise fares or ask Cornell, the city and the county for more funding.

Originally published Friday, January 21, 2005


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