Janlyn Nesbett-Tucker is the first female CEO at Topeka Metro, which was created in 1973. She is also the first CEO from her Leadership APTA class.
Janlyn Nesbett-Tucker, CEO of Topeka Metro
, began her transit career early in life while living in rural eastern Texas. "Neighbor kids across the street would make a pine needle track through the dense trees in their front yard.
My bike had a book carrier on the back with a basket on the front, so naturally, it was the bus," she laughs.
Despite this early introduction to transit, Nesbett-Tucker took a different path after double majoring in English and communications at Stephen F. Austin State University. She began her career at Silver Lake Studios, where she worked for notable clients such as Congressman Charlie Wilson, Coleman Co. and McDonalds. After several years in producing, an opportunity opened at Boswell Buyer Stone Advertising and she signed on as the agency executive for Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority.
As she finished a project for Houston Metro, she was hired into the transit authority's communications department. This position gave her a wide breadth on public transportation as she worked side by side with the CEO and APTA Hall of Famer, the late Robert MacLennan, and former Capital Metro President/CEO Fred Gilliam.
In 1999, Nesbett-Tucker became director of marketing and transportation management services at Community Transit (CT) in Everett, Wash. "The agency went through some really tough financial times with the passage of a citizens' initiative that reduced funding by 30 percent," she says.
During her five years at CT, Nesbett-Tucker became a 2000 graduate of Leadership APTA. She also married and had her first child. "My husband and I realized we wanted to get back to a place closer to home," she says. "Topeka's Midwestern charm and big city vision sealed it."
Formed in 1973, Topeka Metro began creating a foundation.
"After building a new maintenance and transfer center, the next natural step was to grow and modernize the system," she says. "With my strong marketing and management background, the board believed I was the right person for the job."
Nesbett-Tucker is the first female CEO at the agency and the first CEO from her Leadership APTA class. She is the immediate past president of the Kansas Public Transit Association, as well as a member of Southwest Transit Association and numerous other community organizations. In addition, she is working toward completing a Six Sigma Black Belt Certification, as she already holds Green Belt Certification.
Prior to Nesbett-Tucker's arrival, Topeka Metro — the only transit authority in the state — couldn't operate outside city limits, but after she worked with state legislators and the city council, legislation passed that extended the agency's service area just last year. She also created a more transparent transit authority by putting financial safe guards in place, making budgets available online and by delivering clean audits for the past four years.
Earlier this year, HDR Engineering conducted a comprehensive operational analysis and concluded that Topeka Metro is well-managed and operates more service than its peers. In fact, the analysis showed that the agency ranks in the upper middle to top of most categories when compared to similarly sized agencies. According to Nesbett-Tucker, she also worked to save the agency millions over the next 10 years through labor negotiations.
Currently, she and the board of directors spend their time on strategy — particularly to gain funds for a service expansion and an LEED-certified multimodal TOD facility. She adds that she's thankful to have a forward-thinking board at this agency, which has five people in management.