The Organizational meeting of the Nebraska Association of Rural Transit Providers was held September 29, 1981 at the Kearney Ramada Inn. Nineteen persons were in attendance. Fred Holtz (Executive Director of the Blue Rivers AAA) was elected the first president, Verna Lee Knuth (Phelps County Senior Center Services Manager) was the first vice-president, and Ann Williams (S.E. Nebraska Community Action Council) became the Secretary/Treasurer. A total of $94.00 was collected from those in attendance to open a checking account for the new Association.
Membership dues were set at $25 per system. Each of the transit systems within the state were to be contacted and encouraged to join the Association. Goals and priorities for the Nebraska Association of Rural Transit Providers were developed and would be public information.
Primary concerns of this newly formed Association (1981) were the funding problems facing rural transit systems by the proposed cut-off of Federal Highways Administration Section 18 Operations Assistance funds to rural areas, and elimination by Nebraska State Legislature of the 50% allocation clause for rural transportation use in the Nebraska Transportation Act (LB-443). Training of the systems managers and drivers was also a priority.
At this time, Dalyce Ronnau, was the person in charge of the Transit Division of the Nebraska Department of Roads. He informed all of the systems, that the dues were an allowable expense within the transportation application. In the mid 1980’s , the name was changed to the Nebraska Association of Transportation Providers, when Lincoln’s StarTran and Omaha’s Metro Area Transit joined the coalition.
This core group under then President Robert Curttright’s (MAT, Omaha) guidance continued working for statewide unity. In 1988, Steve Anderson became the NDOR transit division officer. And, his suggestion was that an executive director needed to be hired to effectively promote and provide direction for the Nebraska Association of Transportation Providers. Marleen Gakle, then Secretary for this group, was hired as the first Executive Director, January, 1988. Larry Ossowski (Executive Director, Blue Rivers AAA) became president (and remained for seventeen years), Dorothy Bartels (Manager of Saline County Area Transit) was the Secretary/Treasurer for many years.
Georgia Janssen was hired as Executive Director in 1998 following Marlene’s retirement and served in this capacity until December 2011. NATP contracted with a management company to oversee the association headquarters and duties: Advanced Association Management, LLC. Tiffany Fougeron currently serves as the Executive Director. AAM is located in Milford, Nebraska.
Great strides have been made since those early days. The Board of Directors and members of the Association have worked hard to raise our state’s elected officials’ awareness of the importance of Rural and Urban Transit and for the last 2 years the appropriation for Public Transportation has seen a much needed increase. Also, at the Federal level, our allies in Washington, D.C., the Community Transportation Association of America, has worked hard with members of Congress and have been successful in getting substantial increases for Rural Transit across the nation. Of course, we can never rest on our laurels because there are still people in many areas in Nebraska who have no access to public transportation.
The Association recognizes the rights and needs of all Nebraskans to avail themselves to affordable and accessible public transportation. The purpose of this organization is to do any and all things legal and proper to promote and support effective, safe, and efficient public transportation throughout the State of Nebraska.
Adequate, safe and affordable transportation is essential to the economic health and vitality of our communities, large or small. Public transportation is a major key to maintaining an independent and productive life for all members of our communities. It is clearly in our State’s interest to encourage the development and continuation of a balanced public transit system. It must be responsive to the needs and limitations of individual riders and each community. All human and financial resources must be used efficiently to do this.
Nebraska Association of Transportation Providers was formed to promote effective, efficient public transportation throughout Nebraska. NATP supports acceptable public transportation that is accessible to all, particularly the aged, handicapped and anyone who would otherwise be without affordable transportation. Access to medical, business, employment, social and supporting services is fundamental to all of us. Public transportation is a key element in allowing Nebraska citizens to maintain their independence, dignity and self-respect.