Just days after taking the wheel at Long Beach Transit, new President and CEO Kenneth McDonald already had the organization’s 50th anniversary pin displayed on his lapel. 

“I’m first trying to understand the culture and people at Long Beach Transit so I can continue the good work that’s been being done here,” McDonald said about how he is tackling his new job.

With more than 25 years of experience working in the industry, McDonald said he applied because of all the good things he had heard about Long Beach Transit. He also once had met his predecessor, Laurence Jackson, at an industry event — Jackson announced his retirement last year after 38 years with the organization.

On his first visit to the city, McDonald said the cleanliness of the buses in Long Beach struck him as a testament to what a “well-oiled machine” the organization is, and he said he also was impressed by Southern California’s weather.

“It’s always sad moving, leaving some place you’ve lived, but this opportunity is one that fit everything I was looking for,” he said. “Long Beach Transit has long tenured employees who love being here. I look forward to being a part of that.”

Originally from Trinidad in the West Indies, McDonald most recently lived in Roswell, Ga., with his wife and their two children. There, he served as the Assistant Vice President of Transit and Rail Systems with Parsons Brinckerhoff International  — his work required him to travel often to Canada. 

He also has served as the COO of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. And, McDonald worked for two decades with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority where he worked his way up to the position of Assistant General Manager of Operations.

With degrees in electrical engineering as well as science and technology management from the Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga., McDonald said he knew from a young age that he wanted to be an engineer.

“I was 10 years old, and this is no kidding, but I wanted to know how sound came out of the radio,” he explained. “Someone said it was because of electrical engineers… I knew I wanted to do that.”

His first job in transit was working as an electronic technician for a rail transit system, and he said the rest is history.

McDonald and his wife Natalie, who have been married for nearly 25 years, chose a home in Long Beach where he can ride public transit as much as possible. McDonald said he is taking his time riding other bus routes in the city too so that he can meet Long Beach Transit’s employees and customers.

His work here, he said, has a lot to do with supporting the local economy.

“It’s about access to work and play,” he said about maintaining the quality of Long Beach Transit’s system, which is used by more than 28 million passengers a year.

For more information about Long Beach Transit, including routes and schedules, visit www.lbtransit.com.

Ashleigh Ruhl can be reached at aruhl@gazettes.com.

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