A 7-Minute Ride with New Transportation Chief

Will Kempton, OCTA's CEO, and Gilbert Patterson, a 20-year coach operator, discuss protecting transit funding and making OCTA buses a viable option for the public.

Gilbert Patterson was driving his regular bus route No. 83 that starts in Anaheim and ends in Laguna Hills.

The coach operator spotted two people dressed in business suits at a bus stop on Katella Avenue near the Disney resort in Anaheim Tuesday morning, Aug. 4. One had a computer bag and held a pocket-size video camera. The other had a briefcase and asked if he was on the right bus for the OCTA headquarters.

"Yes, I'll drop you off right in the front," the coach operator of 20 years politely replied, not knowing he was transporting OCTA's new CEO on his first bus ride to work in Orange County.

Will Kempton, 62, the former Caltrans director, took his seat among the other passengers, including a nurse, a service worker and a computer programmer.

Kempton, who has never lived in Southern California, browsed through a map to familiarize himself with his new home. He thumbed through different areas of the county until he heard the coach operator ask, "Are you really the new CEO?"

"Yes, I am."

Kempton and Patterson talked about the quality of the bus, the devastating impact of the national economic recession and state budget crisis on OCTA's bus system and how to make transit more of a travel option for members of the public.

"We've got great drivers with excellent customer focus," Patterson said. "I think you'll like it here."

Kempton replied, "I want to get out to the bases and meet you guys."

"Yes, I'm out of the Garden Grove base," Patterson said.

"Now, did I hear that you've been on the job for 20 years?" Kempton asked. "You look too young to be here for 20 years."

With a chuckle, the 42-year-old resident of southwestern Riverside County responded, "Well, you're too kind."

In just seven minutes, the four-mile bus ride from Anaheim to Orange was over.

And Kempton's second day on the job began with Patterson's parting words for his new CEO: "Welcome aboard."

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