Cherry receives top honor | Samson independent

Patricia Cherry is working on the wheelchair lift she has on her bus.

Patricia Cherry is working on the wheelchair lift she has on her bus.

Patricia Cherry has spent the past 17 years as a bus operator for Sampson County Public Transportation meeting new people and working hard to do her best at her job.

“I was always taught to work, so whatever you do, do your best. And if you enjoy what you do, you will do your best. And that’s what I do,” Cherry said.

And it recently paid off when she became the North Carolina Public Transportation Association’s Driver of the Year, an award given to just two drivers from rural counties each year.

It’s an award she didn’t even know she was nominated for.

“She didn’t know,” echoed Rosemarie Mobley, director of Sampson County Transportation. “I nominated her for that, and then we surprised her with the presentation.”

And while Cherry said winning this award was a shock to her, her direct supervisor Jeff Sawvel believed it “couldn’t have happened to a better driver.”

“I was just happy she got it; it is a reward for a lot of hard work… a lot of good work over the years,” Sawvel said.

“Patricia is… she’s trustworthy. She is reliable. She gets the job done, she goes above and beyond when we need her to. Any trucking company would love to have her,” Mobley said.

Cherry said since winning the award, several people in the community have recognized her for her good work.

“I went to Gracie’s Grill (Wednesday), and I walked in and the waitress said, ‘you’re her.’ You’re the one who was in the paper about the driver,” Cherry said. “I said, ‘yes, that’s me.’ And the owner said ‘welcome to Gracie’s’ very loudly, and everyone turned and looked.

I called and told Sawvel and Mobley, “I think I need security.”

After the waitress, Cherry said she was recognized by one of her riders on her route last Thursday.

“And like (Thursday) I was passing by Walmart, passing by the university and a lady was driving next to me and she kept looking. I looked at her, and she looked at me, and she thought, ‘I’ve seen her somewhere.’ And then, I think, it popped out and she said, ‘uh huh,’ and I waved my hand.

When asked about being recognized in the community, Cherry said she didn’t mind because she was “recognized for something good.”

Outside of the riders Cherry interacts with on a daily basis, both Sawvel and Mobley had only good things to say about what she is like as an employee.

“Riders rave about her, and that’s what you want,” Sawvel said. “As far as driving goes, boring is good in that regard. Because you don’t want to have any incidents, you don’t want to get calls where things have gone wrong and so on. You don’t have that with her.”

‘What you see is what you get, and she’s always the same. It’s a pleasure to have her here and it’s a pleasure for everyone,” Mobley said.

According to Mobley, the Driver of the Year award “started in 2020 or 2021, meaning Patricia is one of less than five people to receive this award.”