Skip to content

SMTS celebrates 45th anniversary

Southeast Missouri Transportation Service or, as many know it, SMTS celebrated its 45-year anniversary with a party Oct. 18.

Drivers and employees from all 21 Missouri counties SMTS serves gathered together and reflected on 45 years of public service to rural public transit.

“Southeast Missouri Transportation Service is one of the nation’s oldest rural public transportation systems, and one whose creation came as many have since, not at the behest of a government funding program, but in response to a very real need in the rural communities of Missouri,” SMTS Executive Director Denny Ward said. “A number of volunteer groups in Southeast Missouri recognized that transportation was the single most requested need to aid independent living. The need was escalated to the Missouri Department of Community Development in the early 1970’s in search of better mobility strategies.”

Ward said a non profit corporation was then formed and, through the generosity of many, three vans were procured along with volunteer drivers to start the transportation service for elderly residents and those living with disabilities. 

“The first van was donated by Mr. Ralph Turley of Turley Dodge, while another was supported by Dr. Douglas Ross, a Farmington, Missouri Dentist whose clients were in need of transportation,” Ward said. “The year was 1973, and it soon became obvious that the need was greater than the capacity and available funding.”

Ward said eventually the need became recognized at the state and federal levels and in just a few years, through the support of Senator Kit Bond and other elected officials, funding became available through the Federal Transit Administration as a flow through grant to MoDOT that was allocated to sub-recipients like SMTS, OATS and other transit providers.

“Today, SMTS, Inc. operates in 21 Missouri counties with a fleet of approximately 200 vehicles and employs more than 200,” Ward said. “The organization is governed by a Board of Directors, which includes Raymond Skaggs, Mark Massingham, Jim Eaton III, Enola Moody, Tom Steska, Cindy Minnis, Mary Vandiver and Barbara Tipton.”

Ward said he feels that the company’s tagline probably best says it all, “Transportation is like water and electricity, you don’t think about it until you don’t have it, then you think about it a lot.”

He also said he recognizes his mentor, Bill Osborne, who served the company as Executive Director from 1973 to 2014. Ward said Osborne is largely responsible for the company’s success.

“Did you know that Missouri is the only state in the union that has public transportation in every county,” Ward asked. “It’s true. OATS covers 87 counties, while SMTS covers 21 and the remaining counties are served by one-county providers.”

Ward said SMTS is the second largest rural transportation provider in the nation and that in the last fiscal year SMTS provided more than 300,000 individual rides to Missouri citizens.

SMTS looks to the future as it makes plans to continue providing safe reliable transportation as well as work to make improvements on its next 45 years. 

A group of SMTS workers gather for a photo during the 45 year celebration Oct. 18. 

A group of SMTS workers gather for a photo during the 45 year celebration Oct. 18. 

SMTS Driver Paul Mashburn puts on the charm as he drives away with a car full of passengers who attended the celebration.

SMTS Driver Paul Mashburn puts on the charm as he drives away with a car full of passengers who attended the celebration.

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

Leave a Comment