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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Ten Questions with Williamsburg Area Transit Authority Executive Director Matthew Scalia

Matthew Scalia

HISTORIC TRIANGLE — “Ten Questions with” is a series that allows readers to get to know local business leaders, volunteers, and community members in the Historic Triangle.

This week, meet Matthew Scalia.

What is your job title and description?
Executive Director, overseeing all operations of Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA) including its 12 fixed routes, paratransit services, financial management, and future planning and development.
Who do you interact/work with regularly?
I interact regularly with the WATA Board of Directors, leaders and staff of the three serviced municipalities (James City County, York County, and the City of Williamsburg), elected officials at all levels, state officials, and other local organizations and citizen groups (chambers of commerce, nonprofits, William & Mary, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to name just a few); and of course, our operators, the most important members of the team.
How do you/your organization interact with the local community?
WATA prioritizes community engagements because they are opportunities for us to promote our services, understand the needs of diverse groups, and help find solutions. We present updates to the boards of supervisors and city council, provide informational presentations to other local organizations, and meet with numerous leaders who share an interest in the well-being and growth of our region. We also provide instruction on how to use public transit to schools. Lastly, we have an advisory committee composed of members of the public to make recommendations to WATA.
What is something about your job most people wouldn’t know about?
Our drivers truly care about their passengers. Friendly relationships are on display every day and I witness them whenever I hop on a bus. The drivers show me the bus stops that need improvements, assist passengers with boarding, or help them find the best route to their destination. They get to know their regular passengers and offer help, even as simple as a friendly word on a bad day. We’re your friendly neighborhood transit service!
How do you define success?
First and foremost, we must meet our core mission of providing safe and reliable transit services to the community. But we must also ensure we are growing with the community, and this requires smart planning, coordination with local and state officials, and engagement with the public to understand its needs. We have objective metrics to measure our performance, but it is the feedback from the community, especially our riders, that measures our success.
What is your most successful accomplishment to date?
My personal accomplishment? Easy. It’s integrating into this great team. As for the organization’s accomplishment, I am most proud that WATA has never faltered, even in the most challenging circumstances. For example, when the COVID pandemic hit the region in 2020, WATA suspended service for only one day. It immediately adapted to ensure others were able to get to their places of work, medical appointments, food shopping, all those places they needed to be. Due to losing some drivers we had to alter our service hours, but we still stayed in operation seven days a week. Just another indication of the commitment we have to the community.
How long have you lived/worked in the Historic Triangle?
My family and I moved here in the summer of 2021. I chose Fort Eustis for my last assignment before retiring from the Army so we could settle and grow roots here. Not a day has gone by when my wife and I haven’t commented on how much we love it here.
What is your favorite part of being in the Historic Triangle?
That’s a tough question and I can’t single out one thing. It’s everything together. It has so much to offer while still giving a small-town feel. Countless parks, the arts and festivals, diverse restaurants, natural beauty, and friendly people. One aspect that I think is exceptional is the number of volunteer organizations we have. WATA engages with a lot of nonprofits, and I’m heartened to see how many people give back to our community.
What do you do for downtime/to relax?
Who has time for that? I love to spend time outdoors, hiking, running, or biking in any of the great parks or trails in the region. These are all wonderful family activities too, and one day (hopefully before too long) I’ll have a boat!
What is the next step in your journey?
Keep growing roots in the community both professionally and personally.
Do you want to learn more about your community and the people who live and work in the Historic Triangle? We are looking for people with interesting jobs, super volunteers, or community leaders to showcase. Reach out to let us know if you (or someone you know) would like to be considered for Ten Questions.

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