KCATA Honors Transit Heroes at Annual Rosa Parks Awards Ceremony

Posted on: Sep 03, 2019

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) recognized eight local leaders at the 2019 Rosa Parks Spirit Awards at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on August 27, 2019. KCATA’s 7th annual signature event honors local individuals and organizations who are making a positive impact on the region’s transit industry.

“The Rosa Parks Spirit Awards is not about the shiny award but more about the shining example each honoree shows in the region,” said Robbie Makinen, President and CEO of KCATA.  “The awards highlight their journey and why they are so passionate about touching the lives of the folks who depend on public transportation.”

While all the awards are presented in the spirit of Rosa Parks, this was the first year KCATA presented an actual “Rosa Parks” award. The inaugural Rosa Parks Award was presented to Gwendolyn Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City for her tireless work for equality and social justice. Her legacy includes improving public transportation to provide access to opportunities through jobs, education, shopping and medical care throughout the region.

“Just as Rosa Parks was a trailblazer in her time, Gwen Grant is that trailblazer for Kansas City," said Robbie Makinen. “Gwen really pushes you to be uncomfortable with the injustices in this country. It’s that push that holds us accountable to provide equity and dignity in public transportation. KCATA is proud to honor Gwen with this award.”

Other 2019 winners include:

RideKC Award

Brian McKiernan, Commissioner, Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas.

The RideKC Award is presented to an individual or organization who has demonstrated great strides in building a more integrated regional transit system. Commissioner Brian McKiernan from the Unified Government has been a steady supporter of bi-state public transportation and was instrumental in uniting the region under one umbrella. He continues to be a voice for transit as co-chair of the Regional Transit Coordinating Council and as an elected official.

“It’s very humbling to receive this award,” said McKiernan. “Especially since it’s named after someone who was such a pioneer in ensuring that all of us had access to safe and affordable public transportation.”

Community Partner Award

Dr. Mark Bedell, Superintendent, Kansas City Public Schools

Dr. Yolanda Cargile, Superintendent, Hickman Mills C-1 Public Schools

Dr. Michael Weishaar, Interim Superintendent, Center Public Schools

The Community Partner Award was presented to a trifecta of outstanding school superintendents.  They were each recognized for launching a pilot program that enables their high school students to ride regional transit at no cost to them. “We didn’t do this expecting an award,” said Dr. Mark Bedell. “The impact is more important for me and our students can easily speak to the difference this is making in their lives.” Because of their leadership, 60,000 trips were made by district students accessing jobs, internships and after school activities.

Business Partner Award

Scott Smith, HNTB (retired) and Mike DeBacker, Burns & McDonnell

Co-Chairs of the KC Chamber’s Big 5 Transportation Initiative

The Business Partner Award was presented to Scott Smith, retired from HNTB, and Michael DeBacker, Burns & McDonnell, co-chairs of the Greater Kansas City Chamber’s Big 5 Transportation Initiative. The duo was recognized for their leadership in support of transportation, innovation, and workforce movement in the Kansas City region. “It’s their combination of professional experience and passion for the community that drives them as co-chairs and they are driving the business industry’s interest and engagement in this,” said Joe Reardon, President and CEO of the Kansas City, Mo., Chamber of Commerce. They worked to bring a broader spectrum of business leaders to the table to really understand how their business success depends on good public transportation. “When you look at the impact that Rosa Parks had, not just on transportation but on culture and society and on the United States moving forward, those are big impacts,” said Smith. “It’s a great honor to receive a reward in her name and it makes us raise our sights very high.”

Regional Leadership Award

Daniel Serda, Project Manager, KC-CUR, LISC

KCATA also presented Board Chair, Daniel Serda with the Regional Leadership Award for his decades of commitment to advocating for one regional transit system. For over 20 years, Serda has worked to push the idea of a strong bi-state collaboration which would enforce the value of a robust public transportation system in the region. “There are a lot of people standing on the shoulders of Daniel Serda and the work he started with the Regional Transit Alliance,” said Makinen. Serda continues to push for community involvement and transparency as Chair of the KCATA Board of Commissioners.

 Lathrop Gage sponsored the 2019 Rosa Parks Awards.