A Lifetime Achievement Award is being given this year to honor someone very special who has made a mark on the history of our industry here in Florida. This individual merits recognition for a career in student transportation rather than a single contribution.

The director of transportation in Pasco County for 28 years, Mike Park has served his entire career in one district, starting in 1980 and retiring in 2007. During this career, Park served as president of the FAPT at a time when the future of the association was in a serious financial position. As president, he provided the leadership and strength of personality to reinvigorate and engage the membership and restore pride in belonging to the Association. After his term on the executive committee and as president, the Association has never again been in financial jeopardy. The FAPT has continued to serve as the backbone of advocacy for the local school districts and the voice of both the small and the mega districts.

His closest peer was from Hillsborough County, and a few of us will remember in 1980 when Jack Pillsbury named Park “Rookie” at his first FAPT conference. Pillsbury called him “Rookie” until the day he retired.

Jack Shelton, another director and long-time friend, reminds us that our nominee did not like change. He bought 65-passenger Internationals his first year on the job and never would buy any other bus. The-65 passenger Internationals comprised Pasco’s entire fleet.

One of the many reasons our nominee was so loved and appreciated in his district was his insistence that if his office received a call from someone asking to speak to the director, the caller was always put through to him personally. That is a real rarity in this day when it is almost impossible to get a call through to speak to a real director. Our screeners, barriers, websites and gatekeepers do a good job of stopping most callers from speaking to the director.

We can’t mention our honoree and not talk about golf. While he was never one to shy away from a good game of golf if given the opportunity, Archie Baker says Park could hit the ball longer, farther and straighter than most anyone else in the FAPT. Maybe Baker exaggerates a bit but that’s the way we will all remember it.

In closing, we share part of our honoree’s letter of support from his good friend and former superintendent, Tom Weightman. While the superintendent lauded him for his integrity, his work ethic, the way he got along with parents, his support of principals and coaches and on and on about how great he is, we want to close with a story his superintendent shared:

“Mike had an assistant who was close to him. His name was Terry Rhum. They would often discuss problems that came up. They would talk about complaints from employees and from parents and I am sure they both would get exasperated at times as we all do. On one occasion, Mike had to go see a urologist about his prostate gland. A physician’s assistant told him to remove his pants and get up on a table and pull his knees up under him. The physician’s assistant sat behind him and as he probed to examine the prostate, he watched it on a screen above them. When the exam was over and Mike went back to his office at the bus compound, he said, ‘Hey, Terry, I know a guy who has a worse job than we do.’”

With that, please join us in honoring our friend Mike Park for his lifetime of achievement in student transportation.