The transit industry has been deeply ingrained into Beverly Edwards. She began working in the industry at Colonial Transit, originally a taxi company her uncle owned in Pittsburgh, the same year she started high school. At the time, she had no idea that her career in transit would span another 38 years and counting.
She worked at Colonial Transit all throughout high school and stayed on for the four years it took to earn her degree in accounting at Robert Morris University. She had her eyes set on a career as a certified public accountant, but her persistent uncle changed her trajectory by offering her a management role.
She quickly moved up the ladder, transitioning from reservationist to payroll processor when she was 16. She then moved up to controller and then GM when her uncle, William Knaus, sold the company to Mayflower Contract Services Inc. in 1988.
“I was only 25 and I don’t think [Mayflower] were overly comfortable, they knew my background, but I think they felt it was going to be a leap of faith to leave me in charge of a 300-bus multimodal operation,” Edwards says. “But they did, and it was a good fit.”
She was promoted to regional manager two years later, then VP, operations, and finally to her current position as senior VP, operations.
Throughout her climb, she was intimately involved with the merger between Mayflower and Laidlaw Transit Services, Laidlaw’s acquisition of National Bus Service, and FirstGroup’s purchase of Laidlaw.
She worked with her staff to ensure that during each merger, they retained the best qualities of the acquired company to improve the combined company as a whole.
Now, Edwards’ role is as senior VP, operations at First Transit, a provider of contract public transit, paratransit, transit management, and transit management services, and responsible for more than 50 operating locations from Pittsburgh to El Paso, Texas.
Thirty-eight years ago she started working part time at her uncle’s office as a reservationist. Now, that same office is one of the many she’s in charge of.
On a high level, her focus is on ensuring safe delivery of on-time transportation services and passengers. Ultimately, she’s responsible for making sure everything is working correctly at each of her locations.
This means that on any given week she could be working on maintenance issues, HR-related issues, collective bargaining agreements, labor relations, financial accountability, bids for new work or start up of a new location.
“The demand on your time is always challenging and you constantly have to reprioritize. At any moment what you’re working on can change because of something that happens out in the world or at our locations,” Edwards says. “Some might find [that variety] challenging, but I have to admit I enjoy it.”
Edwards takes pride in her work and credits a lot of her and the company’s success to her management team. She’s worked with all of the people in her regional team for at least five years, and with many, for as long as 20 years.
Their success as a team shows, Edwards says that their contract retention generally hovers above 90% or better.
Edwards sees her analytical and detail oriented nature, which came from her accounting background along with the empathy she’s gained from growing up in the transit industry as some of her biggest strengths.
As VP she often needs to make quick but well-informed decisions. Knowing all the facts and understanding the impact her decisions are going to have on the people for whom she’s making them, helps her make the best decision.
Spending time outdoors is the key Edwards uses to maintaining a good life balance. And now that her boys are away at college, she’s going to have a bit more time for herself.
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