North America Central School Bus Holding Company, LLC announced that Steve Hemmerlein will become CEO of contractor Illinois Central School Bus starting in the new year. He replaces Bruce Barr, who is retiring.
In the interim, the company said Regional Operations Manager H. Kevin Mest will assume the role of chief operating officer. Barr will also act as a company consultant until Hemmerlein joins North America Central on Jan. 1.
Hemmerlein has 20 years of experience in the student transportation industry, most recently as senior vice president at First Student, where he was responsible for the Midwest and South regions. He also held such titles as contract manager and senior vice president at Laidlaw, which was acquired by First Student in 2006. There, Hemmerlein oversaw Midwest and West regional operations. Steve is a lifelong Chicagoan and graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Meanwhile, Mess joined the company in May and has more than 25 years of experience in the student transportation industry. At Laidlaw, he was a regional vice president of operations.
"We are pleased to have both Steve and Kevin on board as we continue to expand our business across the country," said Robert Dove, chairman of the board of directors. "Each has a proven track record of strategic leadership with a strong focus on safety and customer service. Their combined experience and expertise will help us continue to grow and partner with the communities that we serve."
Barr founded Illinois Central/North America Central School Bus, in 2004 and since has served as president and CEO. He began in the school bus industry in 1978, when he started Morris Transportation, Inc., until 1986, when he sold the company to Ryder Student Transportation. Barr became a contract manager at Ryder until it was acquired by First Student in 1999. Barr then became a senior contract manager responsible for 30 contracts worth $30 million in annual sales. He also supervised 1,100 employees and a fleet of more than 600 school buses.
"After over 30 years in the student transportation industry, I have decided to retire to spend more time with my family and other business interests," said Barr. "I am very proud of the company that I founded and built."
The company also said Chief Operating Officer Ron Howard has left the company to pursue other interests.
The new team, including CFO Patrick Earley, will be responsible for leading Illinois Central School Bus/North America Central School and its subsidiaries Indiana Central School Bus, Missouri Central School Bus, Minnesota Central School Bus and Kansas Central School Bus. In all, the company operates 54 locations and has grown to become the fifth largest contractor in the nation.