02/20/18 — New GWTA executive director in waiting

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New GWTA executive director in waiting

By Rochelle Moore
Published in News on February 20, 2018 5:50 AM

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Don Willis

An eastern North Carolina native with 25 years of public transportation experience is positioned to become the next Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority executive director.

Don Willis, who most recently worked as operations manager for EZ Rider for the town of Chapel Hill, started Monday as the GWTA assistant to the executive director.

Willis will become the GWTA director following the planned retirement of GWTA executive director Fred Fontana in August.

"Knowing Don for many years, I have no doubt that he is the right person for this position," Fontana said. "He understands public transit and has a passion for it. I look forward to working with him and am confident that GWTA will continue to grow and maintain its high level of customer service under his direction."

The assistant director post was recently created by the GWTA board to provide a smooth transition for a new director.

Fontana plans to retire on Aug. 31, even though he could retire earlier due to the experience Willis brings to the table.

"He's got over 25 years of experience in public transportation," Fontana said. "He's very conscientious, as far as making sure everything is by the book. He's very conscientious to do things the right way.

"He's very likable."

Willis, who grew up at Harkers Island, graduated with a bachelor's degree in urban and regional planning from East Carolina University, in 1993, and worked as an N.C. Department of Transportation apprentice for the Charlotte Area Transit System.

He also worked as a DOT rural grants program administrator for five years and later as the transportation manager for Wake County Human Services, for 16 years.

In 2016, he started working for EZ Rider, which provides specialized transportation to people with disabilities as part of the larger Chapel Hill Transit Service.

Willis was attracted to the GWTA job because of the quality of the transit system, which serves residents throughout Wayne County, and also for the opportunity to move from management to executive leadership.

"I knew it was a strong system to come to and with (Mr. Fontana's) planned retirement, it seemed like a good opportunity," Willis said.

In his new role, Willis plans to spend time learning about the transit network, as well as its customers, with the goal of providing excellent customer service.

"I think it's important to have a customer

focused service," Willis said. "I am very excited to join the Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority. The organization is strong under the leadership of the board of directors, and the executive director, Fred Fontana. The GWTA provides an important public service that connects people to the opportunities in our community."

Willis said he is also looking forward to moving closer to the coast.

"Eastern North Carolina is the place to be," he said. "It feels like home."