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This CEO has taken a varied route to his post

On the wall in Bill Carpenter’s office, a picture with several members of his family hangs alongside a photograph of his grandfather, Charles Casey.
 
Casey was assistant chief clerk for the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad for 15 years, and managed transportation for the Rochester District Ordinance Department during World War I. In 1919, he took a job at Kodak Park as superintendent of its yard department and traffic manager.
 
Casey, who was born in 1886 and died in 1933, serves as a reminder to his grandson-William Charles Carpenter, middle name taken from his grandfather-of the family’s roots in the city of Rochester.
 
Carpenter, 57, has been CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, which includes the Rochester Transit System, since Oct. 1, 2011. He oversees some 680 employees, a budget of roughly $80 million-more than half of which comes from state, federal and local subsidies-10 bus systems in six counties, and approximately 20,000 customers.
 
He also is overseeing construction of the $50 million transit center on Mortimer Street scheduled for completion in 2015.
 
"What does it say to 20,000 people that your day starts out with 20 minutes in the dark early in the morning, in whatever the weather is, wondering who the person next to you is, without any sense of safety or security?" Carpenter asks.
 
"Change that 20 minutes to a well-lit, climate-controlled environment, a restroom, some brochures to look at, someone to ask a question about how to get from here to there.
 
"And then at the end of the day, you’re tired from working, now you’re back outside, the winds have picked up out there, you’re cold. Change that to climate controlled, you meet your friend and maybe go out for a meal."
 
The new facility will eliminate bus and passenger congestion on Main Street, Carpenter says.
 
"The level of respect it provides the community, the ease with which the system becomes useable, there are all those pieces to it," he says. "We’re expecting an increase in ridership. That will recover some of the cost.
 
"Then, as you change Main Street from a place for transit customers to wait for a bus and design it for a place for consumers to shop and employees to work, it changes the sense of what Main Street looks like."
 
Carpenter was director of Monroe County’s Office of Management and Budget from 2004-2008, leaving to become chief operating officer at Elmira-based Salient Management Co.
 
He joined RGRTA in November 2010 as chief operating officer and was named CEO a year later when Mark Aesch resigned to become an independent consultant and speaker.
 
"What I’ve come to appreciate over time is just how much serving the community, making a difference in the community, is built into who I am," Carpenter says. "Community service through public service has fit me very well."
 
John Doyle Jr., president and CEO of Doyle Security Systems Inc. in Henrietta, has known Carpenter professionally and personally for 32 years.
 
"Bill is a great guy who I admire and respect," Doyle says. "He’s nothing but honest, ethical, hard working. He really cares about the people he works with and his customers. I always get a kick out of his quick wit and dry sense of humor."

Longtime residents
Carpenter, a Penfield resident, is the fifth generation of his family to call the Rochester area home.
 
"My grandchildren are seventh-generation Rochesterians," he says.
 
His mother’s side settled in 1834, the year the village of Rochesterville was re-chartered as the city of Rochester.
 
Combing through personal records after the death of his mother in 2005, Carpenter learned of the family’s ownership of property on Lyell Avenue, between Lake and Dewey avenues.
 
"They owned the whole block," he says, "and I’ve got the receipts for the property taxes to be paid and parcels of land being sold so they could pay the property tax."
 
Carpenter was graduated from the Aquinas Institute of Rochester and enrolled at St. John Fisher College, intending to become a priest.
 
"I went to mass every day my senior year in high school and my freshman year at college," he says. "I’ve always taken that part of my life to be very important to me.
 
"There was a point in my seminary experience where I realized there are a lot of other ways to live out that call."
 
He changed his mind about the priesthood after one year at St. John Fisher and transferred to SUNY Buffalo, graduating in 1978 with a joint bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and economics.
 
He married his wife of 35 years, Moey, shortly after getting his degree and took a job with Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

Joining Doyle
Carpenter left MetLife after 20 months to sell Yellow Pages advertising at L.M Berry Co., a subsidiary of AT&T Inc. Seven years later, in 1986, he took a job with Doyle Security Systems Inc., a client from his days at L.M. Berry.
 
Carpenter met John Doyle Jr. in 1981. Doyle was responsible for sales and marketing at his father’s business, and Carpenter worked with him on Doyle’s Yellow Pages ads.
 
"John Doyle had just joined his father," Carpenter says. "He and I got along very well. I got along well with him because he was buying advertising. We developed a good friendship."
 
Carpenter worked at Doyle for 14 years, starting as general manager of its maintenance and custodial business for security-related programs. He became its president a year later.
 
That division was generating revenues of $20,000 a month when Carpenter came aboard. It was a $17 million business when he left, he says.
 
Carpenter also assumed control of sales and marketing for the alarm company and eventually became president of that unit.
 
"Bill is a natural leader and knows how to grow a business," Doyle says. "During the time I worked with him at Doyle Security, he was part of the executive leadership team and helped us grow 15 percent per year on average.
 
"He was highly respected by our customers, our employees and was highly regarded within our industry nationally."
 
When the company acquired Security Safe Inc. in 1996, its owner became president of Doyle’s alarm business and Carpenter added the presidency of the security-guard business to his duties as head of the janitorial unit.
 
"The (guard) company was $10 million when I got there in 1986," Carpenter says. "When they sold the guard and janitorial business (in 2000), it was $53 million."
 
The janitorial business was sold to OneSource, an $800 million company with its headquarters in Atlanta, with the stipulation that Carpenter come, too. Carpenter accepted. He was vice president for nine months and division president for two and one-half years while continuing to live here.
 
"They wanted me to move to Philadelphia," Carpenter says. "I said ‘I like Rochester.’"

His territory then was the New England states and the Middle Atlantic states down to North Carolina and Tennessee.
 
"The CEO thought it was best if I was located in a major market. They said ‘Why don’t you come down to Atlanta and we’ll talk about it.’ They gave me a very nice separation agreement, and I had to get out of the janitorial business," he says.

A new path
The public sector became his next career move.
 
"I got a call out of the blue," Carpenter recalls. "I had left OneSource with an 18-month separation package. So I’m kind of looking around, and there were people that knew I was looking around."
 
He was called by a representative of newly elected Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, who said Brooks was interested in him being the county’s budget director. A meeting was scheduled for the following week.
 
"I looked to see what budget directors get paid," Carpenter says. "It wasn’t a lot.
 
"My wife and I went down to Hilton Head and were walking in the ocean. I said ‘I can either replicate what I’m doing, which is a lot of traveling with some type of regional or national footprint where people know what I can do and how well I can do it, or I can go back and not do any traveling and try to make a difference in the community.’"
 
Two weeks later, Carpenter was offered the budget director position, which he took.
 
"I remember at the end of that calendar year thinking that I had enjoyed this much more than I thought I would," he says.
 
"It was making a difference. It was using the ability to see what the resource constraints are and how we could do it a little bit differently to get a better outcome than what otherwise would be expected."
 
Brooks calls herself a huge fan of Carpenter.
 
"He is clearly one of the smartest individuals I’ve ever worked with," she says. "He’s an out-of-the-box thinker. He’s very innovative and, in many ways, allowed us to do some things in ways we never did them. They were nontraditional to government, because of his ability to think innovatively."
 
Among those ideas was the county’s 2007 decision to take New York up on its offer to let counties send sales tax revenue to the state in exchange for not having to operate under the state’s Medicaid cap.
 
"County taxpayers will pay state taxes, and all we’ve done is move it, but when you’re trying to solve a budget problem …" Carpenter says.
 
"People have said (Brooks has) found gimmicks or different things, but there are a tremendous amount of efficiencies that have come from trying to just do the right thing in the right way. It was a very rewarding time."
 
Monroe was the only county to buy into the Medicaid swap, which saved some $30 million before the county decided to opt out at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year.
 
State mandates are an ongoing problem for local budgets. Paying for state-mandated services accounts for 83 percent of Monroe County’s budget, Brooks says.
 
"It was easy to do it for Maggie Brooks, from the standpoint that she made the guiding principles clear," Carpenter says of mandate issues. "Don’t raise taxes. You’ve got the property tax levy to work with, but other than that do no harm."

Numbers guy
Carpenter enjoys budget and financial processes.
 
"I have a very unusual gift for numbers," Carpenter says. "I see numbers and their relationship. That’s served me well in business."
 
He does not mean to be boastful.
 
"I’ve got children that look at a photograph and tell me why they love that photograph, and I have no idea," he says. "It’s a different kind of intelligence.
 
"I consider myself to be just one of the people in the room, other than once in a while somebody will try to show me two numbers and I’ll say that’s how those two numbers go together. Call it a gift or call it a curse. But it’s part of me."
 
Says Doyle: "He has an uncanny ability to do complex math in his head. I never needed a calculator when Bill was around."
 
Carpenter left county government after four years because he wanted to return to the private sector. After two years with Salient, he joined the RGRTA, a public benefit corporation.
 
"I think he will be great for RGRTA because people are pressuring our authorities and some of our quasi-government entities to operate like a business," Brooks says. "You need that mindset, and Bill certainly has that.
 
"He’s very professional. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with anyone with the kind of work ethic that he has. I think it was a great choice for RGRTA, and I think he will be very successful there."
 
Doyle, a former chairman of the RGRTA board of directors, agrees.
 
"He brings a different style to RGRTA than his highly successful predecessor, but it will be highly effective in its own right," Doyle says. "Bill will make good things happen.
 
"His private-sector experience, combined with his proven leadership ability, will help the RGRTA grow and continue its improvements in efficiency and customer satisfaction."

Off the job
Carpenter spends his spare time with his family. His children range in age from 17 to 34 years old. He has 10 grandchildren, four in Rochester, four in Buffalo and two in Brooklyn.
 
"I think I’ve watched over 1,200 soccer games, with all seven of my children playing soccer at one time or another," Carpenter says. "I’m a reasonably good golfer. It’s hard for me to call that a hobby because the family is the most precious thing."
 
He remains involved in church activities.
 
"I probably get through a dozen books a year," Carpenter says. "I think that’s important. Usually, there are eight business books and three or four about something that isn’t going to have me thinking about how to operate buses in more-efficient ways." 
 
He and Moey recently celebrated their 35th anniversary with a trip to Costa Rica.
 
"We’ve been to Ireland, London," Carpenter says. "This past summer we got all 21 of us-No. 22 is in the oven-down at Keuka Lake and rented a couple of cottages.
 
"My wife and I will do something on a quarterly basis, once a year longer, three times a year shorter."
 
Wherever he goes, he is sure the return trip will always be to Rochester.

Bill Carpenter
Title: CEO, Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority
Age: 57
Home: Penfield
Education: B.A. in mathematics and economics, SUNY Buffalo, 1978
Family: Wife, Moey; sons James, 32, Daniel, 29, Peter, 25, John, 20, Michael, 17; daughters Sheila, 34, Mary, 27
Hobbies: Golf, reading, traveling
Quote: “I’ve got four siblings. At one point or another, they all moved away. I never did. I’ve never felt the urge to go anywhere else.”

2/22/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

 

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