There are certain things many of us do every day that we rarely actually stop to think about or appreciate. For example, most of us (hopefully) shower or bathe every morning or evening; we walk into our bathrooms, prep the water, undress, hop it, get clean, and get out. It’s just part of our routine. However, what if something got in the way of making that routine possible to accomplish? What if you went into your bathroom to discover your water had been shut off? What if you physically couldn’t get in or out of the tub? There are many examples, like this, of small abilities many of us have every day which could be easy to take for granted. Another example of this point may be found in the topic of transportation. You may be reading this feature in the evening after a day full of traveling to and from work, running errands, meeting friends etc. Odds are, you completed those tasks by commuting in a vehicle of some sort, and although you may not have given that fact much thought, you better believe our featured guest has thought a lot about how the people of Elko get from A to B! Yes, today we’re joined by the princess of transportation!
For this conversation, our guest is Mackenzie Gonzales. At only twenty-one years old, Mackenzie is the mobility manager for Elko county, which means she is one of our go-to people when it comes to finding a ride for wherever someone may need to go; she thinks about how Elko gets around town. However, before she takes us down the road of explaining more about her job, let’s let her share a little bit about how she arrived at her current career destination!
“I have been in Elko for quite some time; I’ve lived here for about sixteen years now. I grew up in and graduated from Elko High school; I was actually on the forensics team. That was big in my life for a long time. Some might know me from the fact that I won ten thousand dollars for a speech I had written for The Voice of Democracy, which is sponsored locally by the VFW. They sent me to Washington DC and gave me a ten-thousand-dollar check, and because I was able to go to Washington DC, I really fell in love with politics in general, so coming to our local government here at the county has been fantastic. Prior to working for the county, I had some transportation experience working as a dispatcher for our local bus system (Get My Ride). Through that, I learned a lot about our disabled adults, seniors, and other people in our community who both use and need our public transportation system. I didn’t realize how many disabled adults there were. After about a year and a half of working as a dispatcher, a position for mobility management opened up which is basically like dispatching on a grander scale!”
Thanks, Mackenzie! Now, for those of us who may not know, put us in the passenger seat and take us on the journey of understanding what someone with the title, mobility manager, does in our community!
“There are only three of us mobility managers across the entire state! Basically, the State of Nevada, as a whole, is really lacking in transportation resources, so we’re just trying to connect those gaps were current services don’t exist. For instance, there was a man who was life-flighted to Salt Lake City; he passed away there, and his wife had no way of getting his body back to Elko. Those are horrible stories we don’t want to see in our own state, let alone in our town. I do a lot of individual transportation planning; it’s about trying to be unique, so we’ll work on ride sharing or work with things like Lyft, which is now in town. I also work with case managers, the hospital, FISH, and realistically anyone needing transportation can call me; almost every time someone needs help, we’re able to find transportation for them or connect them to the resource that can help. Help could come through utilizing Get My Ride, our local taxi service, Amtrak, The DAV Van which transports to Salt Lake City for veterans, medical transportation services for people on Medicaid…I would say we have more services in Elko County than anywhere else in the state. It’s pretty fascinating!”
That’s all very fascinating, indeed! You seem very passionate about what you do, Mackenzie! Do you genuinely find your work exciting? Are there any bumps in the road for you as you try to help our area stay mobile?
“Transportation is so exciting! I want to be the transportation guru; I want to know it all like the back of my hand. I got bored one day and called up Lyft, although I have my own transportation, and had them take me to McDonald’s; I got in the front seat and asked the driver to tell me all about it! I’ll get on the bus just for fun. I love being able to help people and be useful! However, there are roadblocks. Transportation isn’t cheap. To start an entire transportation system, you’re at three-quarters of a million dollars. So, when people ask why we don’t have certain services in Elko, I have to point them back to the fact that the money is just not there.”
Transportation is a vital topic; how specifically could a conversation on the subject differ in Elko compared to some other, “bigger” cities out there?
“Coming from a smaller, independent town public transportation can seem kind of scary. I’ll be the first to admit, before working in this field, I would have never wanted to get on a bus! However, I’ll talk to people from other towns, and they’ll tell me how their five-year-old can just hop on the bus and go across town; it’s just what they’re used to, but I think Elko can get there. It’s important. Twenty to thirty people commuting on our public transportation services are disabled people going to and from their jobs.”
“On top of that, we have about twelve or fifteen seniors riding, maybe just going to have lunch with their friends. Without the public transportation service, there would be no going to work or socializing for some of our neighbors. Those are the kinds of things we need to keep in this community, and the more people who know about it, the more we can fight to keep these things here.”
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See you around, Elko!