About Citrus Connection
Executive Director: Tom Phillips
Director of Operations: Bill Knieriem
Chief Financial Officer: David Persaud
Director of Government and Community Relations: Erin Killebrew
Director of Paratransit: Aaron Dunn
Director of Regional Mobility Call Center: Marcia Roberson
Director of Maintenance: Joe Cheney
Director of Human Resources: Steven Schaible
Chicago’s loss has definitely been Polk County’s gain.
Citrus Connection Executive Director Tom Phillips’ arrival in Lakeland four years ago from Pace Suburban Bus in Chicago has added an innovative approach to public transportation in Polk County resulting in the merger of all the county transit systems while still being a good steward of taxpayer’s dollars.
A Minnesota native, Phillips brings 15 years of transit experience to the table which has already enabled him to increase ridership by 27 percent, reduce operating cost by 8.6 percent and refund more than $100,000 to the Polk County Board of County Commissioners.
Phillips has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of New Mexico and when he isn’t being responsible for the present and future of public transportation in Polk County, he is either serving as a member of the VISTE Board of Directors or at Disney World with his family.
He resides in Lakeland with his wife Michelle and sons, William and Marshall and his dog Benny.
Director of Operations
With two million rides per year, Bill Knieriem’s focus is on making sure every rider gets where they need to go.
It’s a pretty daunting task, but as the Citrus Connection Director of Operations, Knieriem loves the responsibility of overseeing the day-to-day operations of the fixed route service.
Knieriem has been with Citrus Connection for the last decade after a career that included working as a Customs Agent in New York working with cargo ships in New York Harbor. He was also a UPS driver, FDOT certified Redi Mix plant manager for Florida Rock Industries, school bus operator in Atlanta and Lake County, FL.
A native of Staten Island, Knieriem graduated high school in 1979. He earned numerous management and safety certifications from the Center for Urban Transportation Research, the Transportation Safety Institute, the National Transit Institute and others. He has certifications in Transit Supervision, Transit System Safety, Fundamental and Intermediate Bus Collision investigations, and Transit Mid Manager Certification from The ENO Center for Transit.
When he’s not making sure the entire Citrus Connection system is running smoothly, Bill can be found casting a line into salt or freshwater looking for that big catch. A proud father of six, Bill boasts about his 17 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Chief Financial Officer
Being a good steward of the taxpayer’s dollars is always the key to being a good government agency and that’s where Chief Financial Officer David Persaud enters the picture.
With more than 25 years in the transit industry, Persaud came to Citrus Connection from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority where he served as the Financial Director. He also served as the CFO for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.
His career in government finance started in Mount Dora, FL in 1984 and moved on to Chatham County, GA and later Augusta, GA.
Persaud holds a Bachelor of Science degree along with a Master’s in Public Administration. He also is a Certified Government Financial Manager.
He resides in Riverview where with his wife Desiree and they are the parents of daughters, Vanessa and Amanda Persaud.
When he isn’t crunching numbers, you can find him traveling, reading, visiting the beach or taking photographs.
Director of Government and Community Relations
There always has to be that one person who can talk to anyone and get things done. We look no further than to Erin Killebrew, the Citrus Connection Director of Government and Community Relations.
Whether it’s a member of Congress or a rider who needs assistance, Killebrew is that liaison who does more than just hears what people are saying. She listens.
A Winter Haven native and daughter of Sam and Eileen Killebrew, Erin joined the Citrus Connection team in her role in May of 2015 after serving in the same capacity for three members of Congress.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology with minors in English and Political Science from the University of South Florida. You better watch out. She is also a certified Law Enforcement Officer in the state of Florida.
When she isn’t working, Erin and her four-year-old son, Coy are raising two kittens they adopted from the Polk County Humane Society. To relieve stress, she is also a Cross-Fit enthusiasts working out six days a week. When she has any extra time, you can find her enjoying time by the water.
Director of Paratransit
He served our country. Now U.S. Army veteran Aaron Dunn serves the transportation disadvantaged as Citrus Connection’s Director of Paratransit.
In just over a year, Dunn took his experience in transportation and logistics from the US Army and applied to improving the quality of life for so many people of Polk County who desperately need it.
He coordinates the transit of over 20,000 people within the Transportation Disadvantaged (TD) and ADA populations among eight separate transportation providers for 17 municipalities across a 2,011 square mile area of operation.
For anyone, that is a tall order, but for Dunn, a Knoxville, TN native, it’s much more simple than executing 11 separate federal transportation initiatives (seven interstate and four international), moving more than 40,000 personnel, 8,000 vehicles, and 19,000 units of containerized cargo across all ten classes of supply.
Dunn is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in curriculum and instruction from Liberty University. He has Master of Arts in Executive Leadership (MAEL) in 2016 (with Distinction) from Liberty University, Bachelor of Arts (BA) Organizational Management in 2013 (Summa cum Laude) from Ashford University
When he’s not dressed up for work, he’s dressed down for fishing and being out on the water with his wife DD, son Keegan and daughter Kendall. His passion for the Paratransit community is always forthright in his mind and heart, so you can say Aaron has been a tremendous catch for us.
Director of Regional Mobility Call Center
When the phone rings at the Citrus Connection Regional Mobility Call Center, Marcia Roberson makes sure that the person on the other end of the line knows that everything is being done to make sure that their transportation needs are met.
For more than two decades, Roberson has been part of the Citrus Connection family. She knows from experience with a view from the driver’s seat, the importance of public transportation has in the lives of the residents of Polk County.
In her role as the Regional Mobility Call Center Director, Roberson is responsible for overseeing the dispatching and communication for both fixed-route and paratransit service countywide.
Roberson and her team call center team has a goal to find transportation solutions for all Polk County residents. Whether they are scheduling paratransit or fixed-route trips or referring passenger to other agencies for assistance through other county, state and veterans’ programs.
Originally from Trenton, NJ, Roberson has lived most of her life in Lakeland where she proudly raised two daughters and enjoys her seven grandchildren. When she’s not working, she enjoying family time, sports, relaxing watching HGTV or reading a book.
Director of Maintenance
When you see a bus rolling down a Polk County road, you can thank Maintenance Director Joe Cheney.
With 41 years in the transit industry, Cheney knows what it takes to keep a fleet of buses moving to be there for the more than two million rides per year that Citrus Connection provides.
Cheney oversees and directs the vehicle maintenance activity at Citrus Connection. He started as a mechanic at the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority moving up to Superintendent of Training and Engineering Support. He also served as the Deputy Chief of Operations Maintenance for the LYNX service in Orlando.
If you are looking for him, he could be found at a soccer or football field watching his grandchildren play. On the off days, he is working around the house or is at the beach.
Originally from Boston, Cheney calls Auburndale home where he resides with his wife Ann. The couple have three adult children and 10 grandchildren ranging in age from 8 to 20. Their sons followed in their dad’s footsteps. Joe Jr. is the Deputy Director of Maintenance for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in Clearwater and Chris is a Certified Honda and Harley Motorcycle Technician in Winter Haven.
Director of Human Resources
Steve Schaible comes to Citrus Connection with a diverse background making him a perfect fit to serve as our Director of Human Resources.
A Human Resource Professional with over 20 years of diversified experience in Hospitality, Manufacturing, Utilities and Child Welfare, Schaible uses his experiences to enhance his capabilities to work and adapt in any environment.
All of that makes him an innovative life-cycle solutions professional with the flexibility to adapt and communicate effectively with all levels of our workforce.
With Masters of Science degrees in College and Personnel Counselling and Public Administration, Schaible will oversee Human Resources, support Risk Management, Safety and Security, Training, Employee Relations and Benefits Administration.
Outside the workplace, Schaible, a father of three college students, enjoys volunteering his time to a youth basketball program. When he isn’t playing or coaching basketball, you will find him on the water in the Gulf of Mexico or under the water in SCUBA gear.