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SHERIDAN – The Sheridan Senior Center has a new transportation director. Steve Ainslie started the job at the beginning of the month and is looking forward to helping Sheridan expand its public transportation services.
Ainslie brings with him more than a decade of experience working with public transit and he helped establish the bus system currently in place in Jackson Hole.
A native of Iowa, Ainslie graduated from Kansas State University and moved out West years ago.
“Like so many other young people, I decided I wasn’t ready for the work-a-day world,” he said, explaining he had taken what he thought was a seasonal position at the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson. “I ended up staying there 15 years.”
Ainslie said his time in the tourism industry indoctrinated him with a love for the Rocky Mountains, and so, he stayed put when he took a new job as operations manager of the public transit system for the town of Jackson. Ainslie was part of the original team that established the public transit system still operating there, which entails not only bus services, but bicycles and taxis as well.
Ten years later, Ainslie received a job offer in Wichita, Kan., and went back to the state of his alma mater. However, he said it wasn’t the same for him.
“Just about as soon as we moved away from Wyoming, my wife and I missed the mountains and the clear streams, and we’ve been trying to get back pretty much ever since,” he said.
It took four years for Ainslie to come back to the Cowboy State, but now that he’s here, he said he’s looking forward to using his experience to help Sheridan start a public transit project of its own.
“We were excited when (Ainslie) applied for this position, especially with the increased focus on pubic transit,” said Senior Center Executive Director Carmen Rideout. “We felt fortunate to get somebody with his experience in working with public transit in Wyoming and other places.
“We’re very excited for what he’s going to bring to Sheridan,” she said.
The Senior Center has been working for years to establish a more high-profile public bus system, and recently heard back from a municipal transportation consultant who outlined a potential fixed bus route to getting the system in place.
“Before I took the job, (Rideout) sent me one of the drafts for the transit service plan the consultants put together, so I had a chance to read it beforehand,” he said. “I liked it. I thought it was a nice road map to follow. It talks about keeping the service we provide now unchanged, which I think is important, and I’ve been told that by many drivers, that we need to continue the service we provide now.
“What we would be doing is adding some additional service and maybe expanding our hours of operation.”
While the Senior Center’s minibus is technically a public resource, many people shy away from using its services because of its strong association with its services specifically for seniors within the community. Ainslie said part of his job will entail shifting public perceptions.
“I think, mostly, the big push will be to get the people of Sheridan on board with the notion of having the transit system,” he said. “There’s always people that don’t support public transit, but there are always people that do. Even if they don’t ride it, a lot of people support it because they know it’s important to others.”
Ainslie will be joined here by his wife in the coming weeks.