10/27/10 — GATEWAY adds new operations manager to staff

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GATEWAY adds new operations manager to staff

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 27, 2010 2:01 PM

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Duplin County native Michael Branch, right, has been hired as the new operations director for the Goldsboro-Wayne County Transportation Authority\'s GATEWAY bus system. Alan Stubbs, left, authority executive director, introduced Branch during the authority\'s Tuesday morning board meeting.

A retired Air Force sergeant who has experience prepping Air Force One has been hired as the new operations manager for the GATEWAY bus system.

Michael Branch, a native of the White Flash community of Duplin County southeast of Mount Olive, was introduced during Tuesday morning's meeting of the Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority.

As operations manager, Branch will oversee the system's day-to-day operations including personnel, maintenance and dispatching.

Branch joined GATEWAY about two week ago, said Alan Stubbs, authority executive director.

"He is sharp, and I am very fortunate to have him," Stubbs said.

Branch is a 1986 graduate of Southern Wayne High School at Dudley where he was a three-year member of the school's ROTC program.

"I graduated June 12 and four days later I was in basic training," he said. "I did 22 years in the Air Force. I started out in transportation logistics. I loaded planes. I have been stationed in Alaska, Dover, Germany, pretty much everywhere. I finished up my tour at Andrews and worked on Air Force One in logistics support.

"I started out in their air operations center just looking at what is entailed in the movement of Air Force One -- looking at security and looking at how security is set up."

Branch then moved on to the passenger terminal side of the operation, where he worked with the personnel in charge of moving the mobile stair trucks to the plane and who salute at the base of the steps.

"We looked at moving senators, the first lady," he said. "I met a lot of people. A country boy from Duplin County shaking hands with some of the most powerful people in the world."

After gaining that experience, he took a 75-man team to Iraq where he was injured.

"I was responsible for everything from the time the plane landed until it left," he said. "We were in critical airspace so we had anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes to download cargo, reconfigure the plane, get the sick, injured and dead out with honors."

He retired as a senior master sergeant. Branch worked for a while in the Washington, D.C. area, but decided he wanted to return home to the more relaxed pace of his home county where his children could grow up around their grandparents.

In other business Tuesday, Stubbs told the board that GATEWAY's two new 35-foot buses were being serviced for a problem with the air conditioning units.

Stubbs said he was unsure when the buses would be put into service, but that he hoped it would be within the next two weeks. Radios also have to be installed first, he said.

New signs have arrived for placement along the bus routes, Stubbs said. However, the 250 signs were printed with only one route, not two as had been required.

The signs cost $6,500. Rather than redo all 250 signs, the company that did the work made 50 signs showing two routes at no cost. The company said 90 percent of the original signs worked on the routes anyway.

Stubbs said GATEWAY gained instead of lost on the deal. He said the signs last about 10 years and that unlike the old signs, the new ones have the name of the route and the time the bus is supposed to leave the stop.

Stubbs said installation is a time-consuming task and that it could be the end of the year before existing signs are replaced.

Board members agreed to purchase $25 gift cards for employees for Thanksgiving and Christmas rather than to hold a Christmas party. Cards were purchased last year as well.

It also was decided to make arrangements for GATEWAY employees to receive flu shots.

"We are going to check with the health department to see if they can do them for us," Stubbs said. "If not, if any employee wants to get a flu shot, we will take care of it. I feel like it is worth $25 to keep somebody at work."

The board met in closed session for 65 minutes with County Manager Lee Smith, human resources director Sue Guy and County Attorney Borden Parker. The session was called for attorney-client privilege.

No action was taken when the board returned to open session, and the meeting adjourned.