HRDC's Galavan bus driver in Three Forks recently retired, and after a lengthy hiring process that did not result in any job candidates, the paratransit service was temporarily suspended.
Area seniors and those with disabilities had relied on the service for door-to-door transportation to medical appointments, some of which were in Bozeman, as well as to the grocery store and other essential service establishments. Most distressing of all, regular riders in need of weekly dialysis and veterans who needed consistent medical care were suddenly without this critical transportation service they had depended upon for years.
Three Forks Mayor Randy Johnston caught wind of this dire situation from his staff members. Mayor Johnston didn't need much more information regarding the crisis at hand, nor did he need much time to process what he'd learned. He contacted HRDC to say he would be happy to take over as the town's paratransit driver. He worked out the details quickly, sorting out his mayoral duties to accommodate Galvan's part-time schedule in the Three Forks, Manhattan, and Four Corners areas, and soon enough, he was behind the wheel driving some of his constituents, as well as customers from neighboring towns, back to their appointments once again.
It's not every day that a small-town mayor steps up like this. Proud Three Forks residents believe there's not another mayor in the U.S. driving their town's only public transportation vehicle. Mayor Johnston recently said driving HRDC's Galvan bus is the best job he's ever had, and that mean's something given all the different types of work he's done over his lifetime.
Sunshine Ross, HRDC's Transportation Director, couldn't be happier with the way this has worked out.
"We are so grateful to have Randy Johnston, the Mayor of Three Forks, as part of our Galavan team. Transportation options are very limited in our rural communities, yet they are such a critical need. Without Randy's support, many people to the west end of Gallatin Valley would struggle to access essential services," Ross said.