OPTA Excellence Awards 2021

OPTA Celebrates Excellence in Public Transit!

OPTA’s Excellence Awards honor individuals and organizations who have exemplified leadership and advocacy for public transit in Ohio. Transit employees, board members and community stakeholders who, by their commitment, work, actions and passion, deserve to be celebrated.   Nominations were submitted by transit associate and mobility manager members of OPTA, the 65 + transit systems in the state of Ohio and transit stakeholders.

The Excellence Awards 2021 will be presented during the Ohio Needs Transit Conference & OPTA EXPO Awards Luncheon scheduled for Friday, September 17, 2021. REGISTER NOW!


The past year provided unprecedented challenges to all who work within public transit, those stakeholders that support the industry and the riders whose lives depend on​ ​reliable transportation service.

We encourage the leadership of Ohio’s transit systems to join OPTA on Friday, September 17 as we honor individuals who have demonstrated themselves to be role models and leaders in public transit.

Thank you to our OPTA Excellence Awards Committee!


Julia Schick, Laketran | Committee Chair


Ben Capelle, Laketran | Katherine Conrad, Ohio Transit Risk Pool | Jose Feliciano, Greater Cleveland RTA

Laura Koprowski, Toledo Area RTA | Barbara Rhoades, Ohio Transit Risk Pool

Judy Rodriguez, Western Reserve Transit Authority | Blair Taseff, TESCO

Shannon Webster, Greene CATS Public Transit Carrie Woody, Lancaster-Fairfield RTA


OPTA Excellence Award 2021 Recipients

Community Impact

Awarded to any transit employee who has had a significant impact within their community.

Olando Epps, Bus Operator, VERG Chair, Central Ohio Transit Authority

Peggy Bakewell, Transit Driver, Knox Area Transit

Four Under Forty Award

Awarded to transit professionals and stakeholders under the age of forty to celebrate the future of transit in Ohio within their specific communities.

Mark Samaan, Service Planner III, Southwest Ohio RTA
Jeffrey R. Macko, Planning Team Leader, Greater Cleveland RTA
Clayton Popik, Director of Planning, Portage Area RTA

Jarrod Hampshire, Director of Maintenance, METRO RTA

Mobility Manager

This award honors a Mobility Manager whose advocacy, innovative collaborative efforts and dedicated public service best represents the spirit and professionalism of mobility management.

Tim Miller, former Mobility Manager, Preble County Transit

Milestone Award

The Milestone Award recognizes individuals or transit agencies reaching significant milestones within the transit industry.

Michael Cassinelli, Bus Operator, Southwest Ohio RTA
Wayne Schlee, Bus Operator, Laketran
Mike Ripplinger, Journeyman Mechanic, METRO RTA

Collaborative Excellence Award

The OPTA Collaborative Excellence award recognizes a program, business, academic institution or individual who has demonstrated an exemplary partnership or an innovative collaboration within the public transit industry for a sustained period of three months or more.

Ben Capelle, CEO, Laketran


Lake County Board of Commissioners | Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Lake County Council on Aging | RSVP of Lake County | Lifeline, Inc. of Lake County

Associate Engagement Award

This award recognizes the contribution of OPTA’s Associate Members through their overall engagement, membership and participation in transit programs, business or other contributions that help to advance public transit.

Masabi, EZfare Project

Lifetime Achievement Award

This award honors leaders and their contributions to public transit over the whole of their career.

Mary Dailey, former Administrator, Athens Public Transit

Mark Donaghy, Retired, Greater Dayton RTA

Denny Schooley, Executive Director, Delaware County Transit

Leonard Ronis Award

Awarded for noteworthy accomplishments within public transit at the federal, state or local levels. This award is named after Leonard Ronis, the first head of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit System, who served public transit at all levels and was instrumental in helping the growth of public transit in the state of Ohio.

Chuck Rector, Board of Trustees/Retiree, METRO RTA

Legislator of the Year Award

Awarded to one elected official who has advanced the improvement of public transit statewide.

Stephanie Kunze, Senator, Ohio Senate District 16