Photo by Duane Tiinkey
Photo by Duane Tiinkey

What does this new position entail?

The director of marketing and community partnerships really was an idea that came about from (DART General Manager) Elizabeth Presutti, who wanted a position that would not only be able to do the marketing and communications of DART itself, but also form community partnerships within the Greater Des Moines area. Much of our success depends on the buy-in of many community partners ... so we touch every facet of the communities that we serve. There really wasn’t one position within DART that did that.

How important is this in the context of the DART Forward 2035 plan?

Extremely important. It’s really important that DART put its best foot forward within the community. We have a long, storied history here in the Des Moines community. People who don’t know much about public transportation in Des Moines might have had their opinion of us formed one way or another. What we really want to do now is tell our own story and show them all the fantastic things we have going on, talk about all of our employees, how wonderful they are, all of our bus operators and how wonderful they are. Now that we’ll be expanding our routes over the next two years and opening DART Central Station (transit hub) next fall, it will just be a fantastic opportunity for us to be front and center within the community.

What attracted you to the position?

The position was a perfect match for me. I’m a Des Moines native. I used to be a transit rider myself. Plus, marketing and public relations is what I do professionally. This was a perfect match for me in that I care deeply about the Des Moines community and public transportation, but also have that marketing and public relations background that was going to be essential to this job.

What are your first steps?

To write a marketing plan, which I’m in the process of doing right now. More broadly probably is to talk to our employees about what our goals are. We’ve always been driven by providing great bus service, reliable service, good customer service. We’re going to continue doing those things. At the same time, we need to have all the employees marching in the same direction towards this new DART Central Station opening, so there’s a lot of planning going on right now. We’re printing all new schedules; we’re literally planning each stop-by-stop change.

What are your goals for the job?

I think I would like to engage the public imagination along with some of our other partners. The (Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s) Tomorrow Plan and the Capital Crossroads project really have a focus on not only what do Millennials want in the region, but also public transportation is a huge part of all those plans. We feel like we’re on the cutting edge of getting out there to talk about transportation. The main thing we’re trying to do is talk to people about the importance of public transportation in any community, for the citizens, for businesses, for everyone. Try to bring the information that people need to be a public transit rider directly to them through our website, eventually mobile devices, things like that, to make it easier.

How important are strategic business partnerships to what DART wants to accomplish?

I think it’s important for business owners and presidents of companies, even down to the last rank-and-file employee, to be able to have options for transportation. We’ll be planning some initiatives that will probably get more people on the bus just to try it out. So I think the key to selling businesses on it is to show them that it’s employee-driven.

What do you do outside of work?

I’m the president of the Social Media Club Des Moines right now. Social media is one of my interests. Politics is definitely one of my interests. So that keeps me busy. I have two kids, a dog named Trixie who I love spending time with, a husband, Jim, who I spend a lot of time with. We spend a lot of time with our family.