Transportation award comes to Canby
Sometimes it seems as though Canby's staff doesn't get the awards they deserve, but recently Julie Wehling was awarded the 2019 Oregon Transit Association's Outstanding Transit Manager award.
Wehling has been with the city for more than 10 years, starting first as a consultant for the transit system known as CAT (Canby Area Transportation) and later becoming a member of the city's staff.
"I came here in late 2007, contracted with, a group of consultants, but later I consulted directly with the city and finally the city hired me in March 2014. When I first arrived at CAT, it was operating above its means and annually borrowing from the city to make ends meet," she told the Herald.
During the Great Recession in 2008-2009, the transit agency had to stop its Saturday service and in July 2011, it cut services by one-third and then implement a system-wide fare in January 2012, and in October of that year, it cut circulations and reduced its payroll tax.
"It was a hard time, we had to cut out local general public dial-a-ride. There wasn't enough capacity for the general public. Services became space available and limited for the general public. But things began to perk up in 2013, and we finally reached a place where services could be increased," Wehling said.
"The CAT offices had to be moved when the Dahlia took over its current spot on North 2nd Street and employees moved into a rented building and later we plan to move into a city-owned building. Canby staff already has purchased a plot of land to house a permanent home for the bus yard."
Now things are getting back to normal, but with a different emphasis. "We're no longer in the hole and now we're heading in the right direction [financially]. We don't have to borrow from the city anymore," Wehling added. "We have $800,000, just to pay our bills. More recently, CAT was able to restart the local circulator and in April 2018 it increased transit frequency on Highway 99E -- now it's operating a fixed route between Oregon City and Woodburn and this September it restored Saturday service.
"Once we have the money and the building, all revenue will go into service. While there are other projects that need to be done, we're working on and toward them now," she added.
Wehling was nominated for the award by Nancy Muller, who works with Wehling. Muller brought letters from other CAT employees acknowledging Wehling's work. One thing that Muller pointed out was that CAT received a total of $9,669,097 in grant revenues from fiscal 2008-09 to fiscal 2018-19, largely through the staff's efforts.
"This alone show's [Julie's] level of commitment and depth of knowledge in 'Everything Transit.' An important footnote to her success is her accessibility. No matter how busy Julie is when a transit provider or anyone involved with transit calls with questions or needs someone to be their sounding board, Julie is the 'go to' person," Muller said.
Included in Wehling's accomplishments are a completed Transit Master Plan, which is reaching all its goals, Muller said.
"These accomplishments reflect how strong a leader Julie Wehling is," Muller adding noting that within the past four years, Wehling started a Rider of the Month program. Each month a rider is chosen at random to receive a free bus pass, and a shopping bag with CAT items.
"This has proven to be a great morale booster for our riders and drivers alike," according to Muller.
Wehling also sits on numerous boards including the Special Transportation Fund Advisory Committee, ACT-the mission driven non-profit organization and the Clackamas County Coordinating Committee or C4. She also meets as necessary with the small transit entities in Molalla, Sandy, Woodburn and Wilsonville. The collaboration of Saturday service between some transit providers has been one of Wehling's priorities.
After Muller read her introduction, Mayor Brian Hodson told her, "Julie you've been an amazing transit director for us. What Nancy said to us is just like the tip of the iceberg in the things you have accomplished for our city in regard to transit.
Wehling is planning to retire in late April 2020. She and her husband want to move to their house at the beach and she's especially looking forward to staying home from night meetings and long office hours.
"The city of Canby and CAT will sorely miss Wehling. It's difficult to imagine CAT without her," Muller said.
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