Two Minnesota Valley Transit Authority bus drivers shared the 2013 Driver of the Year Award, which was given out during a recognition dinner Friday. They are Fesseha Mekonnen and Liz McLeod.

Mekonnen, Burnsville, had been named runner-up twice during his seven years with the agency. He currently drives on local Routes 421, 422 and 445 and also had driven express routes.

"I enjoy driving even though Minnesota winters do make driving hard," he said. "I love to interact with customers and seeing and meeting new people every day. That makes driving more interesting and fun."

He received numerous commendations from riders, one of the criteria used to select the Driver of the Year. Among them: "Fesseha is always very punctual. Always has a smiley face for us riders. It's a pleasure to ride with him every day at 3:40 from the Thomson office. He is an excellent driver."

A native of Ethiopia, Mckonnen moved to Minnesota 11 years ago and has taken classes at Normandale Community College.

McLeod, also of Burnsville, is the agency's "Go To" driver, said spokeswoman Robin Selvig. In her eight years as an MVTA operator, she has driven nearly every express route and local routes in Eagan and Burnsville.

"My father taught me that people are the true treasures of the world," she said. "Everyone is priceless to someone. Being mindful of that helps me drive with great care and compassion for others."

Comments from riders included: "Your cheery attitude provide a great start to the day."  "I want to thank you for being an excellent driver: I really appreciate your service."

Both Mekonnen and McLeod were given a plaque, a personalized MVTA sweater and MVTA scarf.

To be considered for Driver of the Year, bus operators must:

  • Have received one or more customer comments commending superior driving or customer service; 
  • Have been recognized at a monthly meeting during the past year;
  • Have an excellent safety and attendance record.
  • Must be recognized by his/her peers as a leader.

The runner's up for 2013 were Randy Bloom of Burnsville and Linda Cram-Smith of Lakeville.

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