As a military veteran, COTA Superintendent of Transportation Vaughn Francis knows successful teams require cooperation, selflessness and a can-do attitude.
In his position, Francis manages day-to-day operations of nearly 300 COTA operators, division supervisors and staff, making sure vehicles safely leave the station on time and function efficiently on routes. He also manages the implementation of COTA//Plus, our microtransit ride-on-demand mobile service, which provides mobility solutions for communities in Grove City, Westerville and Northeast Columbus.
“With transportation, we’re just all family,” he says. “My job is to be there for everyone, and to make sure they have everything they need to be successful once they go out on the road.”
In a year with, as Francis says, more service changes than he can count, collaborative problem solving is essential. No two days are the same, and when customers see that a coach will arrive at a specific time and location, employees must work behind the scenes to make sure that happens regardless of road closures, traffic and other daily challenges.
“COTA is a really a tight knit team. Everyone has their own expertise in individual areas, so we’re able to lend expertise and work together to create a solution that works for everyone,” Francis says. “Everyone’s focused on our customers, making sure their needs are met and they’re able to move throughout the city efficiently. Once we put customers first, everything else falls into place.”
Positivity is a critical value for Francis as a leader. He believes an optimistic attitude inspires team members to work together towards solutions.
“I’ve always looked at things [knowing that] the problem isn’t going to go away, so there’s no sense in being upset about it while you’re solving it,” he says. “You get work done better and more efficiently when you’re positive about a particular outcome.”
Prior to moving to Central Ohio, Francis served in the US Navy. Encouraged by Ohio’s economy and recommendations from family members, he moved from San Diego to Columbus after completing his service. Utilizing COTA’s tuition reimbursement program to finish his college degree, he progressed from Operator to Supervisor to Superintendent.
Francis says he loves the opportunities available at COTA, and appreciates the focus COTA’s leadership places on supporting veterans through the Veteran’s Employee Resource Group. He is a proud active member.
“I tell my friends all the time [that] COTA is an opportunity for you to have a career versus a job,” he says. “I always let people know [that] it’s really a great place, and it’s only getting better.”
For Francis, the reward is knowing he’s part of a dynamic team that moves every life forward.
“When I’m out and about in my personal life and I see a transit vehicle, I’m proud to know that we’re moving throughout the city,” says Francis. “I’m watching how the bus is navigating through the city, and it really makes me proud to know that’s something I’m a part of — getting people where they need to go, when they need to get there.”