After watching the Centre Area Transportation Authority grow during his 19 years as general manager, Hugh Mose, 65, stepped down Monday.
He walked the halls of the CATA main office on Whitehall Road on his last day, wearing an orange jacket and a tie emblazoned with his own image as he bid farewell to the employees he’s worked with for nearly two decades.
“I figured (the tie) wouldn’t be in too bad taste to wear today,” he said, laughing.
Mose was raised in Elmira, N.Y., and earned a degree in civil engineering from Bucknell University. But he and civil engineering weren’t exactly best friends.
“It was OK,” he said, “but I couldn’t see myself doing it for an entire career.”
He re-entered school and pursued a degree in transportation and urban systems. After graduation, he was hired to manage the bus system in Iowa City, Iowa. For Mose, it was a perfect match.
“I knew in three weeks this is what I want to do,” he said. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have figured out at age 27 what my calling was and then to be able to pursue it for 37 years.”
Mose replaced Kevin Abbey as CATA’s general manager in 1995. He admitted that when he came to State College, he didn’t expect to be here for more than a few years. He had no plans for organizational changes or program growth.
But he did begin communicating as “fully and openly as I could with the employees at all levels in an effort to build trust throughout the workplace.”
Mose also found himself in charge of implementing a plan to convert the bus system from diesel fuel to natural gas.
“It fell to me to implement everything: to buy the buses, to work with Columbia Gas to get the fuel facility constructed, to learn how the whole program would work,” he said.
In 1995, Mose said, the buses owned by CATA were “terrible.”
“I’m surprised our buses didn’t fall apart on the street,” he said.
Abbey had realized that a partnership among Columbia Gas, CATA, and state and federal funding partners would be a good idea and a good way to replace the ailing bus fleet, he said. As a result of pioneering natural gas as a fuel source, CATA was able to attract grant funding.
The first of the new buses arrived in 1996. More buses arrived over the next three years until all the old diesel buses had been phased out by 2005.
Mose credits the conversion to a natural gas fleet as his proudest achievement.
“It was cutting edge,” he said. “It positioned us to be recognized as a particularly progressive, innovative organization.”
He cited the creation of a CATA pension plan as another proud moment. When he arrived at CATA, he said, there were almost no pension or retirement benefits. When some additional transit funding became available, Mose said, he went to the board and explained that the company needed to provide some level of retirement benefits.
A 401(k) program was introduced in 1999.
CATA has also seen its van pooling program grow during Mose’s tenure. What started as a carpool matching program has grown to a 45-van program for transporting Centre County workers as far as Johnstown.
The program is now the largest system run by a transportation company in Pennsylvania, according to Terri Quici, who runs the program.
Mose made the decision to step down several years ago, when he told himself he would retire at 65. He expects that he will still be involved in the community; however, he has little work planned for this summer.
“For the rest of the summer, I’m just going to relax and decompress,” he said. “I’ve been going full-bore for a lot of years.”
For now, he plans to catch up on some things he had set aside: books to read, projects around the house, neglected golf clubs and travel with his wife.
Those who have come to know him at CATA will miss him.
Bob Beck, who has been a CATA driver since before Mose’s arrival, noted the growth he’s seen within the company and the local municipalities and Penn State.
“It’s a remarkable achievement that Hugh’s had with his relationships that he’s developed with those entities that we rely on,” he said. “It’s been an incredible ride.”
Assistant general Manager Louwana Oliva has replaced Mose as general manager. She has worked with CATA for more than four years and was chosen by the board to take over for Mose upon his retirement, Mose said.
“He is so engaged in the work,” Oliva said. “CATA is Hugh. He lives for the work, it’s like his life’s blood.
“To work for someone that engaged in their career is pretty exciting.”
Oliva’s biggest challenge will be overseeing the new maintenance and storage facility to be constructed over the existing main office. The $32.5 million project slated to begin in the fall is funded and ready to break ground, according to Oliva. Notices have already been placed in the main office that it will close as early as August.