Wes Watson is the “face” of public transportation in the State of Florida. Wes served as the first and only Executive Director of the Florida Public Transportation Association for 30 years, leading the Florida Public Transportation Association into the successful organization it is now with 31 corporate members and over 100 business members.
When Wes first started, the organization was known as the Florida Transit Association with about a dozen corporate members and no statewide operating assistance. Through Wes’ leadership, hard work, and ability to navigate the legislative process, the Florida Legislature approved statewide operating assistance for the first time in 1988. The bill approving transit operating assistance was vetoed by Governor Martinez. Wes lead the next effort to obtain operating funding by working with a key legislative committee chair to tie the funding to the approval of turnpike bonds, which resulted in State support for transit operations funding that has lasted and grown for over 20 years.
Since then, Wes has led Florida legislative successes in increasing transit Block Grant appropriations and funding for various Florida Department of Transportation Public Transportation programs. He has ensured that Public Transportation is represented in the Commission for Transportation Disadvantaged, and supported funding for the Center for Urban Transportation Research and a number of various safety and operational public transportation needs. Wes also provided leadership in the annual Federal funding process by coordinating and organizing Washington, DC on-site visits for Florida transit managers and providing input and advice to various Congressional offices and committees for transit funding programs.
Wes has led the development of many important programs that provide additional support to operating transit agencies. The major result of these efforts was the creation of the FTA Finance Corporation, which led to statewide, coordinated purchasing of transit buses. The Finance Corporation also generates vital funding for statewide transit training and funds the FPTA-American Public Transportation Foundation Scholarship for Florida Transit college students. Wes has also guided the FPTA efforts in developing the IM4Transit program that promotes the image of transit and helps harness popular support for this vital public service. This program has been recognized by APTA as the best of its kind in the nation. Not last of all, Wes has planned, managed, and coordinated over 30 Annual Conferences, 20 Professional Development Workshops and numerous State Roadeos.
Before his FPTA career, Wes served in VietNam as a Captain in Army Intelligence, for eight years was the Staff Director of the Florida House Transportation Committee where he was on the team that wrote the first High Speed Rail legislation. He graduated from the University of Florida with a Graduate Degree in Public Administration. Wes has been married to Linda Watson, who has provided much support and assistance to FPTA, for many years and been the mainstay of the Annual’s Spouse program.
As Wes Watson will retire in 2012 as the Florida Public Transportation Association’s long standing Executive Director and for his career which has been dedicated to furthering Public Transportation for all of Florida’s residents, we welcome Wes Watson to the Florida Public Transportation Association’s Hall of Fame, Class of 2011.