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Leonard Mayo: Calling His Own Play

Many years ago when he was lining up as a star wide receiver out of Ben Franklin High School in Philadelphia, six-foot tall Leonard Mayo dreamed of playing football in college.

Now, as he looks towards retirement, the SEPTA Director of Transportation doesn't regret turning down several scholarship offers from colleges that were competing to add the All-Public School Team selection to their roster. Instead, he took a construction job to help take care of his family, including his ailing mother.

"With five brothers and three sisters, everyone has looked to me for support in one way or another throughout my life," Mayo said.said Mayo. "I didn't really need to think very long about it. What good is my success when my family needed me more?"

He did make an important career move in the coming years, perhaps one of the most important decisions of his adult life. He applied for a position as an operator with SEPTA, launching his 32-year career.

"I wanted more for myself and my family," said Mayo. "I saw a trolley go by and thought, 'I know I can do that!'"

Once hired, Mayo learned to operate 14 bus routes dispatched from the old Luzerne District, including trolley Routes 23 and 56. His skills and leadership abilities were recognized, and he moved on to became an Instructor and Superintendent of the Instruction Department. In this role, he was responsibile for training and testing employees involved in heavy equipment operation throughout the City and Suburban Transit districts.

"All I was trying to do was the best job I could," said Mayo. "I didn't think I would enjoy my job and the people so much."

Today, Mayo quietly commands the respect and attention of those he encounters, evident as he walks calmly and assuredly among the employees and vehicles he oversees at the Frankford District. Mayo often begins his day at the office at 6 a.m., but his schedule is anything but set.

"You have to be in the right place at the right time to get the most out of the time you are given," said the hulking, bespectacled man.

He oversees a team made up of over 300 bus and trackless-trolley operators, managers, clerks, and dispatchers, and approximately 100 vehicles. Mayo is particularly "driven" to insure employees fulfill proper customer service obligations.

"It's not easy," Mayo said. "We have to learn and practice sensitivity to countless riders daily. Our customers are very perceptive. We want to make their travel experience a good one."

Mayo regularly greets operators he comes into contact with at the Frankford District. As they pull their vehicle to a stop, they know it is their opportunity to connect and share any problems or concerns with him. It's one of his favorite parts of the job, and one he knows he'll miss when he calls it a career.

"I'll really miss this," Mayo said. "I refer to my job as my second home and my staff as a second family."

"I have been fortunate to be able to create an environment of trust, building valuable relationships along the way, training employees to think, act, and respond in a customer service occupation," he added. "People need to know that you are interested in them. I believe our riders appreciate that too."

Leonard Mayo (left) reviews reports with SEPTA colleagues.

Mayo cherishes the relationships he's built with his staff over the years

Greeting operators at the Frankford District is a regular part of Mayo's day.

After 32 years, Mayo will retire from SEPTA with many fond memories.