New CATS director getting to know job

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Diane Lawrence, the new CATS director, mans the radio Monday afternoon.

“Transportation, this is Diane. May I help you?” was the greeting county transit users heard Monday when scheduling a trip as it was new director Diane Lawrence’s first day on the job.

Lawrence is a familiar face around the Covington County administration building. She has worked with the Senior Rx Program, the sheriff’s office and most recently, the county emergency management agency.

On Friday, commissioners approved her hire for the permanent spot as head of the Covington Area Transit System.

“Right now, I’m settling in,” Lawrence said. “I was able to work a week while one of the drivers was on vacation, but I’m still getting to know the process of everything.

The position became vacant this summer following the retirement of longtime director Ruth Edson. Later, assistant county administrator Pam Steele served as interim director, who stressed the need for a new director.

“It’s a lot to take in,” Lawrence said of the position. “There’s lots of scheduling – learning how long it takes to get to a spot and then remembering that the client must be picked up. I just ask that everyone is patient. I’ll get the hang of it soon.”

Law-rence reminded residents that CATS services are available to everyone.

“It’s not just for the disabled or the elderly,” she said. “It’s for anyone who needs transportation within the county.”

The fare for those residing within a city limits is $3; for those outside the city limits, but within a 35-mile radius, $6; and for those outside the 35-mile radius, $7. The fee includes two stops, and each additional stop is 50-cents. That money, or “fare box money,” is used to meet the required 20 percent local match required for federal funding.

During the 2010-2011 fiscal year, CATS vans made 12,965 trips (from home to one destination) for 8,307 passengers.

Currently, Lawrence supervises three fulltime drivers who operate vans from 7 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“Everyone has been wonderful, helping me through this process,” Lawrence said. “I’m happy that I get to help people. It’s the best thing about this job.”

Lawrence and her husband of nearly 37 years, Tim, reside in Opp and have one grown daughter.