Meet Veteran William Butler Jr.

New 0658If you ask William H. Butler Jr. how many times he has jumped out of an airplane he will give you an exact number – fifty-two times.

The response comes instantaneously and without a doubt.

As I sit across from William in the PSTA drivers lounge there is a certain air that follows him; an elegance. His hands sit folded in front of him and his posture is perfect. He is not your typical army veteran. Not rough or rugged but almost reticent and reflective. Today I will hear firsthand the stories of former Sergeant First Class in the U.S Army’s 82nd Airborne Air Assault Division—William H. Butler Jr.


When William told me his name he wanted to make sure I included the suffix: Jr. He said it was important. At first, I wrote it off as habit. As someone with a very common name that is very commonly misspelled, I appreciated his clarity. But the more I began talking to William, the more I began to understand him and even more so his desire to be a part of something bigger – to leave a legacy.

William joined the U.S Army shortly after graduating from Northeast High School, located in St. Petersburg, Florida. After being offered a number of scholarships to play college football, it was at the request of his grandmother that he first considered enlisting in the service.

He recalls the memory like it was yesterday. “My grandmother said to me: it would be great to see you in a uniform just like your great grand-daddy,” William said. “The military was the last thing I was thinking about, but I went for it.”

As a self-proclaimed adventurer and a thrill-seeker, I think William found his calling that day.

During his first three years in the army, William was deployed to different warzones in different countries on different continents. He talks about the Gulf War and being a part of Operation Desert Shield and then after that Operation Desert Storm—memories he would only lightly touch on.

“You don’t want to hear about that stuff,” he would say.

What William enjoyed talking about was the jumps. When asked about his number one tip for jumping out of an airplane he had to think about it, but only for a second.

“Don’t eat a big meal!” he laughed and then recalled his first jump. “My legs instantly turned into spaghetti.”

As someone who is vocally terrified of flying in planes, I cannot even begin to stomach the thought of jumping out of one—but those were the moments William lived for.

“Honestly, I joined to impress the ladies,” William laughed. “They were looking for people who wanted to go into the airborne division, and I saw the ladies start eyeing us. I joined right there on the spot,” he laughed.

William’s laugh is absolutely contagious.

After being convinced to join the army by his grandmother and then volunteering to jump out of airplanes by little more than a passing glance, I think it’s safe to say that William would do anything for the women in his life.

Good for you, William.

Every jump comes with its risks. There are a million things that can go wrong at a million different times, but that was not something William ever mentioned. In fact, he told me an entire story about jumping out of an airplane only to find out mid-air that his parachute had blown a gigantic hole with a smile on his face.

It’s not that he thought the situation was funny—actually he told me it was one of the most terrifying moments of his life. But to understand his smile you have to understand William.

Having spent a total of 22 years in the service, William has gained a few army-attributes that you cannot scrub off. Aside from his frequent use of military jargon, he is relentlessly, tirelessly, unconditionally dedicated to what he does.

The day after his crash-landing with a blown parachute, William went back up and jumped again.

It is that same amount of dedication that he brought with him when he joined PSTA nearly three years ago. William talks about his passengers with the same passion and pride as he does with the army. He talks about the importance of leadership, responsibility, and respect.

“One of the big things I learned from the army was to be a better listener,” William said. “I had peoples little brothers and sisters lives in my hands.”

William told me leaders must be listeners—I couldn’t agree more.

Of all the places William was stationed he told me his favorite was Germany. He recalls seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris and taking trains across the country.

“I owe that to the military…my bucket list,” he said with a smile.

I couldn’t help but be jealous.

There really isn’t a good way to end a story on William because in the few hours that we spoke I feel like there is so much more to learn about him. But if I had to wrap up William in a few words I would say that he is just what he always wanted to be—a legacy.

The riders who know William on the many routes he drives, such as the 52 and 19, will not see him driving the bus on Veterans Day. Instead, he will be volunteering at Bay Pines V.A. hospital in St. Petersburg.

“Some of the veterans there do not get visitors,” William said. “I go there and listen to their stories. They inspire me.”

Well William, on behalf of PSTA and the citizens of Pinellas County, I’d like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice. You inspire me, too.

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Veterans Ride PSTA Free Nov. 11- Includes any PSTA bus or trolley with proper identification

FacebookSt. Petersburg, Fla. – The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) will once again offer free bus rides to active military and veterans in recognition of Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Riders are asked to show active or retired military identification when boarding any PSTA bus or trolley to qualify for a free ride. Acceptable forms of identification include a military ID card, Veterans Affairs medical card, veteran’s designation on a driver’s license, certificate of release, or a certificate of discharge from active duty.

“We want our veterans to know that we appreciate their service and sacrifice,” said PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller. “We also want to salute the many veterans who are employed here at PSTA.”

According to a projection made by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, the Tampa Bay area has the largest veteran population in the state.

Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are home to a combined 179,899 veterans as of September 2015, according to the report.

PSTA buses proudly offer service to all three of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System facilities that operate in Pinellas County.  These facilities include the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Bay Pines and VA outpatient clinics located in St. Petersburg and Palm Harbor.

“Transportation is extremely important to healthcare access,” said Jason Dangel, Public Affairs Officer for Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. “So we are very grateful for the role that PSTA plays.”

The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System sees around 4,000 appointments a day– a feat Dangel says may not have been possible without PSTA.

“We are kind of blessed here in Pinellas County because we do have great public transportation options,” said Dangel.

For information on trip planning and individual routes please visit or call the InfoLine at (727) 540-1900.

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Another Record Year for PSTA!

ridershipNearly 15 million rides taken in FY 2014-2015

St. Petersburg, Fla. – The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has set yet another annual ridership record with nearly 15 million rides taken in fiscal year 2014-2015.

With eight record-breaking months this year, PSTA has proudly achieved its sixth consecutive year of record ridership.

Passengers used the PSTA system a total of 14,898,825 times—that’s a 2.7 % increase and nearly 400,000 additional trips over last fiscal year. This new record breaks the highest standing record in Pinellas County’s 102-year history.

“I’m so proud to see how much PSTA has continued to grow,” said PSTA Board Chair Bill Jonson. “We’re working with great community partners to make some big moves in downtown St. Petersburg, and we are excited to watch our system continue to improve.”

Aside from its growing ridership, PSTA is looking at new ways to grow in downtown St. Petersburg.

“The goal is to move out of Williams Park by Valentine’s Day and transform the downtown hub into to a grid system in downtown St. Petersburg,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “This is going to be a big step towards a more walkable downtown.”

The PSTA Board will vote on the plan to reroute service near Williams Park at their November meeting.

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Family Man Named PSTA Driver of the Year

DOTY- Faysal MonzerSt. Petersburg, Fla. – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus operator Faysal Monzer has two priorities in his life—his job and his family.

“I’m happy that I can make my family proud,” Monzer said, when asked how he felt about earning PSTA’s highest honor – 2015 Driver of the Year.

In the 12 years Monzer has been at PSTA, he has received many awards and recognitions. Earlier in his career, he was presented the Driver of the Quarter award and has also received numerous safe driving pins.

However, it was not only his safe driving and perfect attendance record that earned Monzer the recognition this year.

“Faysal has a great way of communicating with the passengers,” said PSTA Director of Transportation Jeff Thompson.

Monzer’s communication skills go far beyond the average bus operator at PSTA. He can speak a variety of languages and is often heard translating directions for customers.

“I have seen him stop and take the time to make sure our customers get an answer to questions they may ask him,” said Thompson. “He is a great ambassador for transit and PSTA.”

Originally from Lebanon, Monzer came to St. Petersburg in 1978 and attended Eckerd College. With all of his children grown, he and his wife enjoy traveling and cooking international food—especially Caribbean and Mediterranean cuisine. His favorite route to drive is the Suncoast Beach Trolley. He loves communicating with Pinellas County’s many tourists and is enjoyed by all of his passengers.

When asked about his job, Monzer says it’s all about having a positive attitude.

“I smile at my passengers and ask them how they are,” said Monzer. “I’m very respectful of my riders and they are very respectful of me.”

Monzer was officially presented the 2015 Driver of the Year award at PSTA’s October Board meeting.

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REMINDER: Public Workshop in Clearwater Tomorrow

St. Petersburg, Fla. – The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) will hold a public workshop at the Clearwater Public Library, 100 North Osceola Avenue, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 25.

The workshop will provide those in attendance with a solid background on the current PSTA fare structure, an overview of a simplified structure model, and information regarding fare price adjustments. Riders will also have the opportunity to speak directly with PSTA Senior Planners and Planning staff to answer unique and rider-specific questions.

Those unable to attend the workshops are encouraged to provide written comment by mail or email at  For more information on the Fare Workshops call the InfoLine at (727) 540-1900 or visit

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PSTA Helps Prepare Local Students for School

PSTA notebooksSt. Petersburg, Fla. – Four bins filled with school supplies were donated to St. Petersburg’s Melrose Elementary School Friday, courtesy of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

Through PSTA’s Operation Giveback, employees filled bins with notebooks, binders, pens, and pencils.

PSTA employees decided to host the school supply drive as an opportunity to give back to the community.

“The donations came directly from bus operators, mechanics, and all of the other hardworking members of our team here at PSTA,” said Tamika White, PSTA Employee Training and Engagement Generalist. “This was something they wanted to do.”

Melrose Elementary Principal Nanette Grasso accepted the donation on behalf of the students at the school’s Meet-the-Teacher event Friday.

“We are thankful that PSTA has been so generous to us here at Melrose,” Grasso said. “This is really about being there as a community for the students.”

PSTA also donated bus passes to the school which were raffled off to parents at the event.

“Transit matters to this school,” said Grasso, “and it’s an essential part of this community.”

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PSTA Sets Record Despite Severe Weather

St. Petersburg, Fla. —Despite severe weather and record rainfall throughout the county, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has set a new record for the highest ridership ever in July.

Riders boarded PSTA vehicles 1,260,603 times, a 0.7 percent increase from the same month in 2014, and the 74th consecutive month of ridership exceeding 1 million. The nearly 9,000 additional trips made last month came despite several days of heavy rainfall that left three counties flooded, dozens of roads closed, and forced evacuations.

“The safety of our passengers is always our first priority and that is even more so during severe weather,” said Safety, Security, and Training Superintendent Michael Gloss. “PSTA bus operators go through months of training and practice to help prepare them for all types of weather situations .”

PSTA staff was able to keep riders updated on route detours in real-time by using Rider Alert text messages, emails, and social media.

“It’s our responsibility to not only keep our riders safe and secure,” said Gloss, “but also to keep them informed and prepared in a timely fashion.”

As an active member of the Emergency Operations Center for Pinellas County, PSTA buses will continue to run routes during a storm to help transport and evacuate people until it is no longer safe to travel.

Riders can stay updated on all PSTA bus service by calling the PSTA InfoLine at 727-540-1900, visiting our website at, and following us on social media at @RidePSTA.

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