Chuck MacNeil leaving PDRTA in good shape
FLORENCE, S.C. – Charles “Chuck” MacNeil’s journey to Florence started with a vacation around 10 or 11 years ago.
MacNeil, then head of the Albany [New York] Capital District Transportation Authority, and his wife, a school teacher, decided to vacation in the Pee Dee and Low Country areas of the Palmetto State, because it was one of the areas of the United States they hadn’t visited. On the way back, MacNeil’s wife started a conversation about relocating to South Carolina.
A year after that conversation, MacNeil took advantage of an opportunity to purchase retirement property in the Pee Dee area. Soon afterward, the position of executive director with the PDRTA came open and McNeil was hired.
MacNeil started work for the PDRTA on Oct. 1, 2011.
At the time, the PDRTA was struggling.
The PDRTA was formed in 1976 as the first transportation authority within the state of South Carolina. Over time, it had built itself into an empire stretching from Florence to Rock Hill by transporting Medicaid recipients to and from their appointments with doctors. The state provided reimbursements for the transportation and the PDRTA was able to use those funds to add routes and expand, because it received federal dollars to match the state’s contributions.
Then, in 2007, according to MacNeil, then Gov. Mark Sanford signed into law a contract that changed how the state transported Medicaid recipients, and the PDRTA was left waiting for phone calls to transport that came less often. By not being able to transport as many Medicaid recipients, PDRTA started to lose the federal funds that were matched. Thus, the PDRTA was buckling under its own weight, because its revenues were not able to support the expenses it had.
Soon, after he arrived, MacNeil affixed a sign to the business card holder on his desk containing a Walt Disney quote, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
MacNeil spent his first year sorting out the monetary situation. Eventually, he had to lay off around 80 employees and cut routes to lessen the expenses that were piling up.
He said laying folks off was one of the hardest things he had to do.
Then, he hit the road and began traveling around to any group he could speak to about the importance of public transportation. He needed some local groups to buy in so as to find the missing local dollars to begin once again receiving more in federal matches.
The city of Florence bought in. So did Francis Marion University, which wanted a connection for their students to the Performing Arts Center downtown. HopeHealth and Florence-Darlington Technical College were two other early partners.
Now, approximately four years later, the PDRTA is once again adding routes (including the recent addition of two in Marlboro County), and it seems the company is positioned for the future.
MacNeil has announced that he will retire, effective Feb. 28, 2019.
He said the PDRTA is in good hands and is well positioned for the future.
MacNeil added that he still plans retire in the Pee Dee.