Walking into Dwight Brashear's office at the administrative offices of South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART), a towering bookshelf filled with commemorative photos, plaques and trinkets that he's collected during his 30-plus years in transit draws the eye. Having taken over the helm of SMART as transit director after Stephan Lashbrook stepped into retirement Feb. 28, Brashear says that the shelves act as a reminder of where he's been and motivation for what he hopes to accomplish in Wilsonville.
Born and raised in San Diego, Brashear began his transit career in his hometown after receiving an ultimatum from his future father-in-law, who told him that if Brashear wanted to date his daughter, Synthia, he'd have to get a job. Although not particularly wanting to get a job, Brashear says that Synthia was worth the effort. Shortly thereafter in 1985, working 15 hours a week, Brashear began as a part-time bus driver.
"I was looking for a job — just a job — but I ended up with a career and it's an industry that's given me so much over my career," he says.
Through unrelenting encouragement from his future father-in-law to strive for more in his profession, Brashear continued to push forward, gaining recognition for his work ethic and drive.
"One of the things that I'm most proud of in my career is that the first 12 years that I spent at San Diego Transit, first as a bus driver before I worked my way up the ranks, I went 12 years with perfect attendance and every year I'd get an award," Brashear says. A particularly nasty bout of the flu broke his streak, but the principle of dedication behind the initial achievement never faded. "But, since then, I'm happy to say that I've maintained perfect attendance again."
Throughout his career, Brashear has co-managed a large paratransit operation in Chicago with a fleet of 500 vehicles, held executive positions at several transit organizations, served in management and business development for passenger-transportation services in Las Vegas and Los Angeles as well as CEO of the transit system serving the Baton Rouge metropolitan region.
With his varied history of agencies and organizations, service is central to Brashear. He says that although there are many transit riders, most can be broken down into two groups: "choice riders" that have other vehicles and transportation options but choose to take public transit, and those who don't have a choice and are "transit dependant."
"I started to realize that (transit dependant) aren't usually the type to show up to City Council meetings and things so they don't have a voice," Brashear says. "So I tried to make decisions that always took into consideration what was ultimately best for those individuals."
Several years later when Brashear's mother became transit dependant due to health issues, his commitment to serving the transit dependant increased.
"I developed these two mantras that I live by," Brashear says. "One is, wherever I go in life, whatever I do, whoever I meet, I have an obligation — a sacred obligation as far as I'm concerned — to leave it better than I found it, no matter what."
That mantra applies to his new role at SMART. Despite inheriting an organization he says is strong, with a solid team currently in operation and a good reputation in the community, he hopes to amplify those positive qualities and grow them in new ways.
"The other mantra is that I can never take more than I give — I'm committed to that," he says.
Brashear intends to use imagination, innovation and teamwork to achieve new successes for SMART — including digging into the most recent draft of the SMART Transit Master Plan.
"I'm in a relationship with this thing," Brashear says, referring to the master plan. "I took it home deliberately this weekend with my blue highlighter and I'm just reading through it and it's an interesting read and it's very involved."
But as with any new position, Brashear says that he's going to take some time to get up to speed before starting to make changes to the document.
"I know that a lot of effort went into it and I'm going to try to figure out a way to improve upon this, because everything in life can be improved upon," Brashear says.
One thing that he anticipates working on is a problem that most technical industries face: explaining and translating industry jargon into everyday English. But, having only been on the job for a little over two weeks, he has time.
"Everybody has been so welcoming and receptive," Brashear says. "I look forward to getting involved, rolling my sleeves up and getting the job done."