Laketran’s trustees were delivered fairly anticipated news when General Manager Ray Jurkowski announced his intent to retire later this year during the Jan. 23 board meeting.
Jurkowski said he plans to retire at the end of his employment contract on July 31. He has served as the transit agency’s general manager since May 2003.
According to a Laketran news release, the bus system has carried more than 10 million passengers on its Local Fixed Route, Dial-a-Ride and Cleveland commuter Park-n-Ride services during Jurkowski’s tenure.
In his position, Jurkowski has overseen the investment in modern technology to improve operational efficiency, cost-effectiveness and customer access to vital information.
Laketran passed two local sales tax levies in 2003 and 2013 under Jurkowski’s leadership that safeguarded the future of the agency through the passage of a permanent levy, the release stated.
Through the years, Jurkowski continuously and strategically prepared Laketran for the future. From 2012-2013, Laketran engaged in the largest public outreach effort surveying the Lake County community to gather input on what transit riders, residents, students, business owners and stakeholders wanted to see for the future of public transportation.
Jurkowski developed Laketran’s 10-year plan, Access To Opportunity 2014-2023, to provide a roadmap to develop public transit services to better connect residents with jobs, training, education and health care, with special focus on meeting the transportation needs of seniors and people with disabilities.
Senior Trustee and former Board President (during Jurkowski’s hiring) Donna McNamee expressed appreciation for Jurkowski’s service to Laketran and the community. “Ray brought a unique understanding and sensitivity to the challenges faced by seniors and people with disabilities, our industry’s most important stakeholders,” she said. “Ray’s knowledge and experience has been invaluable to me in helping industry peers gain perspective on the plight of seniors and people with disabilities who do not have sufficient transportation. I’ll truly miss working with him.”
Prior to joining Laketran, Jurkowski served as the deputy commissioner of transportation in Westchester County, New York, and was instrumental in developing one of the first public-private transit systems in the country. In 1987, Jurkowski went to St. Louis to join the team that introduced light rail in Missouri and Illinois. A year later, he joined the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority as the assistant general manager of organizational development.
Board President Brian Falkowski acknowledges Jurkowski as the chief architect in crafting Laketran’s financial recovery plan to bring back transit services eliminated to mitigate the loss of sales tax revenue following the Great Recession.
“Under Ray’s leadership, staff aggressively not only implemented a host of cost reduction and containment strategies, but more importantly developed a number of new revenue streams to preserve as much transit service as feasible,” he said. “Ray has always been able to provide top notch public transportation for Lake County while doing so in a the most financially responsible ways.”
Under Jurkowski’s direction, Laketran has been the recipient of many transit safety, marketing, financial and audit awards, as well as being recognized twice by the American Public Transportation Association as the “Outstanding Transit System” among its peer group.
Falkowski soon will appoint a search committee of board trustees to find Laketran’s next general manager.
“Since Ray will still be with us for another six months, we intend to take our time and find the right person capable of taking Laketran into the future by building on what has been accomplished in the past,” he said.
“Ray will certainly be leaving large shoes for his replacement to fill. However, the organization could not be in better shape than the condition that Ray is leaving it in. The board is very grateful that we were able to have Ray lead our organization for as long as he did. Ray really is a terrific guy and will be missed.”