The general manager of Guelph Transit once made a promise to himself that he would never oversee transit operations in a major city, but said he couldn’t pass up an offer to take the reigns at Halifax Transit.
Now the City of Guelph is seeking to put in place its fifth general manager in 10 years.
Mike Spicer took on the position of general manager of Guelph Transit 14 months ago, after spending the previous nine years in Burlington.
Spicer said the offer to take on the role of manager of transit operations for Halifax Transit came out of left field.
“The opportunity that has been presented to me is something that I had to think long and hard about, but I am excited about it,” said Spicer.
Halifax Transit maintains a daily ridership of about 95,000 people on 57 bus routes and two ferries.
“It’s a much larger system, which years ago I said I would never do, but all of the stuff I have heard, read and the research I did — it’s a really exciting time in Halifax right now,” said Spicer.
He is especially excited to be overseeing the ferry service in Halifax.
“I have never managed ferries before, so I am really looking forward to that. Even though I am not a boat person — that doesn’t matter — I still think it’s exciting,” said Spicer.
The final decision was a difficult one to make, said Spicer, but now that he has made it he is looking forward to the new challenge.
“I said to my staff this morning it’s not that I am leaving Guelph because of anything other than this is a great opportunity for me. I’m not really a selfish person, but this time I had to be,” he said.
Spicer credits Guelph Transit staff with achievements made since he took the general manager position in November of 2016, including an uptick in ridership, the recent route realignment and addition of the 99 cross town route..
“I am very proud of what the staff have been able to do in changing the thinking, the way we communicate and engage with our customers. They have done a good job in bringing the system forward. There is still a long way to go, they know that, but there is a plan now to move forward,” said Spicer.
Guelph’s deputy CAO overseeing Guelph Transit, Colleen Clack, said she is sad to see Spicer go but is excited for him on a professional level.
“This is a great opportunity for him. I think it speaks volumes about his ability as a transit leader that Halifax, as a bigger transit property, would recruit him in that way,” said Clack.
She said Spicer came to her in advance of being offered the position from Halifax Transit to to tell her he was being considered.
“It was not something Mike was seeking, he has been very good at keeping me in the loop. I appreciated that,” said Clack.
Spicer’s last day as general manager of Guelph Transit is Feb. 2.
“I’m not taking my foot off the accelerator for the next three weeks — I will help with whatever transition needs to happen. Even if it happens to bleed into a little more than three weeks, Guelph will always have my support and help wherever I can in regards to moving this system forward,” he said.
The role of general manager of Guelph Transit has been filled a few times in the last 10 years.
Spicer's immediate predecessor Phil Meagher was fired by the city in October of 2016 after serving a little more than three years on the job. Prior to that, Guelph Transit GM Mike Anders and the city ceased their working relationship in 2013 after taking on the position in 2009.
Prior to his time in Burlington, Spicer worked as an operations manager in Brantford for nine years.
He begins at Halifax Transit on Feb. 5.
Guelph’s Transit's service review is still in the early planning stages, said Spicer. A change in leadership will give his replacement the opportunity to chart a course moving forward.
“Now someone else will be able to come in and bring their expertise and their views of how transit should operate in Guelph. It’s great timing,” said Spicer.
It is too early to comment on plans to replace Spicer on an interim or permanent basis, said Clack, but the service review will continue to move ahead.
“We have some strong people in place in Transit that Mike has made sure of. I am confident Guelph Transit will continue to move in a forward direction,” said Clack.