Mike Wyllie has retired from Smithers and District Transit Service after 27 years.
Wyllie started as a bus driver in 1991 when the system only had one bus, which was just a van conversion with a wheelchair lift in the back.
Eventually he became the manager for the transit system while still performing his duties as a bus driver.
“It worked out very well because it made things that much more interesting and varied the days,” Wyllie said.
Just as Wyllie’s responsibilities began to grow so too did the service’s, as it eventually added scheduled bus routes to Telkwa and Moricetown.
Town of Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach said he rode Wyllie’s bus for five years on his commute from Telkwa to Smithers.
“Mike’s friendliness, his personality and his caring for the residents of the community really shone through in his work,” Bachrach said. “I know he’ll be really missed.”
While the community may know him as Mr. Transit, his former colleagues say he’s more complex.
“It’s interesting because so many people in the community know him as Smithers Transit but there’s so many more aspects to his personality,” Smithers Community Services Association executive director Cathryn Olmstead said. “He has a lot of different interests.”
Wyllie coached wrestling, cross-country skiing, loves photography and is an avid hiker.
Joanne Lee, the new manager for Smithers and District Transit, said she has big plans for the future of the service.
“I think for the next short period of time I would like to work on getting ridership up and getting some exposure for the curb to curb service,” Lee said. “Maybe in the future we could even expand to a larger area than what we have now.”
As for Wyllie, he plans on doing some home projects that he has been putting off and travelling in his retirement.
“I can’t even imagine our transit service without Mike Wyllie. It hasn’t hit me yet. It won’t hit me until I go to email him or we have a transit committee meeting and he isn’t there,” Transit committee member Leslie Ford said. “Not to say there isn’t going to be great people who will take his place but as far as I’m concerned he is Smithers and District Transit Service embodied into one person.”