CEO of SouthWest Transit to retire next year | Chanhassen Affairs






Len Simich, CEO of SouthWest Transit, has led the company since 1997. He is expected to retire early next year.



Len Simich, who has run SouthWest Transit since 1997, plans to leave the public transport agency early next year.

The agency, founded in 1986 by the towns of Chaska, Chanhassen and Eden Prairie, provides bus service throughout the region.

Throughout Simich’s leadership, ridership increased by 400%; four transit stations were built; and the SouthWest Prime ride request service was launched, according to SouthWest Transit.

SouthWest Transit is currently looking for a replacement. Once a new CEO is found, Simich plans to take a few months to travel. However, if anything happens to the agency, he said it was just a phone call away.

“I’m not going to walk away from it and just leave them,” Simich said. “If they need me, I’ll be there.”

When SouthWest Transit initially approached him about the position in the 1990s, he told officials he would join the company, but would not guarantee anything beyond five years.

“It was a good place to come. Lots of growth, lots of opportunities, ”he said.

Now Simich wants to find a part-time job, most likely as a consultant. Either way, he thinks he can take care of it. Simich is not quite at the retirement age where he is ready to disappear at sunset, he said. He believes he has about four to five years left before he is ready to retire fully.

MANY HATS

For now, Simich will continue to work on everything from operational issues and construction, budgeting and setting up the legislative platform for SouthWest Transit.

“It’s a lot of different things at different times of the year,” Simich said. “It’s one of the things that makes work fun because you wear a lot of different hats. We’re a small agency, so no one here really has a job.

During his time with the company, Simich learned about himself when challenges arose, such as dealing with the pandemic, layoffs and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But Simich said he didn’t do it alone. He had a good team of people who could rely on each other, he added.

“This place has been my home for over 25 years and I owe them a lot,” Simich said.






Len simich

SouthWest Transit is currently looking for someone to take on the role of CEO of Simich. He plans to retire between January and May of next year. After his retirement from the South West, he will seek part-time work, possibly as a consultant.



EMPLOYEE PERSPECTIVE

Mike Dartt, SouthWest Transit Facilities Manager, has worked with Simich since he started with the company. The two work closely together, as does the whole organization, he said, adding that they were all like one big family.

Dartt started in the company as a driver and held various positions before becoming Facilities Manager.

According to Dartt, one of Simich’s greatest qualities is his sense of innovation – whether it’s the Southwestern coaches; the SW Prime system, which works similarly to Uber; or even the corporate color scheme. It also challenges SouthWest Transit employees to improve every day, Dartt said.

Not only was Simich a great person to work with, he was also a good friend, Dartt said.

Working for Simich “hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been a pleasure working for him because you know where you stand with him,” said Dartt. “He still has my back as far as I’m concerned.”

Matt Fyten, COO of SouthWest Transit, has worked with Simich for almost 12 years.

According to Fyten, he owes everything to Simich when it comes to his career. Simich is ready to give people opportunities to be successful in their roles, he said. Fyten started in the company as an intern and was able to evolve in his role.

“He was very clear about his expectations… but he was also very good at making sure I had the knowledge and the resources to be successful in my role,” said Fyten. “I think it has spread throughout the organization. “

Simich believes that every SouthWest Transit employee is important to the success of the company, said Fyten. Whether someone is a mechanic, janitor, or administrative, they treat everyone with the same respect. He’s a good, approachable guy, he added.

According to Fyten, Simich is why SouthWest Transit is what it is today – when it comes to high quality stations, vehicles and customer service. While it takes a whole team to achieve this, it also requires an exceptional level of leadership, he said.

“I can’t say enough about what he represents for this organization, I think he brought it and also what he has done for the communities when it comes to public transport,” said Fyten. “I just consider myself lucky that he has been my mentor throughout my career.”

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