BUS REPORT Summer 2011
Thomas Built Buses: A Family Heritage — Part II
This is the second in a series of BUS REPORT articles profiling some of the multi-generational families who have helped make Thomas Built Buses a great place to work for the past 95 years. Every story is different, but each reflects an extraordinary commitment to the company. And each story offers insights into what makes Thomas Built a special place to work. Again and again, those being interviewed say: "Thomas is like a family."
Richard Curry is an environmental technician at Thomas Built Buses. He's been with the company 16 years and started as a contract security employee. "I wanted to stay no matter what," he says. "It's like a family." In his current position as an environmental technician, Curry played a key role in Thomas' recent Zero-Waste-to-Landfill initiative.
Curry remembers the first time he saw the Thomas Built plant. He was about eight years old and went there with his mother and grandmother to give the company a family photo they'd recently come across. That now-familiar photo is on the cover of From Rails to Roads: The History of Perley A. Thomas Car Works and Thomas Built Buses, by Clint Johnson, 1996, Lifescapes Press. Fifth from the left in the photo is Curry's great grandfather, Edward Wesley Jennings, a carpenter who built streetcars for Thomas Car Works. Curry's mother remembers seeing her grandfather going off to work at the Car Works each day, carrying his wooden tool box.
With that heritage, is it really any wonder that Curry says "Thomas felt like home."
The Daniels/Holmes/Sauerbrey/Loftin family connection to Thomas Built Buses is more complex, but equally interesting. Doug and Ronnie (known as Dean by his family) Daniels are brothers. Doug, who is a team leader in Special Options, has worked at Thomas 37 years, and Dean, who is a team leader in the Body in White department, has been there 32 years.
Doug Daniels began his Thomas career on the second shift, welding seat frames, and eventually moved to a utility job in Special Options. He's proud of the fact that he was the first man to punch the time clock at the new C2 plant in November 2003. "This is a good company," he says. "It's hard work but you get good wages, and Thomas looks after its employees."
Doug Daniels' brother, Dean, joined Thomas right out of the Marine Corps, and he's been there ever since. He considers himself fortunate to have been able to travel to Mexico and Scotland as part of his job.
Ronnie Holmes is Doug and Dean Daniels' brother-in-law, married to their younger sister, Angie. He's been at Thomas 30 years. Holmes started as an assembler doing roof rivets and jokes that he's "worked his way down" to riveting bus sides.
Doug Daniels' daughter, Tracy Daniels Sauerbrey, has worked at Thomas 22 years. She started as summer help on the switchboard when she was still in high school and has never worked anywhere else. Today, she is a warranty and recall manager. "Thomas goes to great lengths to make its products safe for children," she says. "We're safety conscious because of the precious cargo we carry." Her sixteen year-old son aspires to work at Thomas Built too. He wants to be a welder just like his granddad, Doug.
Aaron Loftin is Doug Daniels' son-in-law, married to Tracy Daniels Sauerbrey's sister Carma, and he's the newcomer in the group, with just 19 years at Thomas. Loftin has worked his way through the ranks from fabrication to an office job in scheduling. "It's a good place to work, with a lot of opportunities for advancement and good managers," he says.
In addition to being long-time Thomas employees, everyone in the family takes pride in what they do and shares a common vision of why their jobs are important. Ronnie Holmes sums it up: "Thomas goes to great lengths to make its products safe for children. We have a lot of confidence in the buses we make. Our kids are on those buses."
(Pictured left to right) Ronnie (Dean) Daniels, Ronnie Holmes, Aaron Loftin, Tracy Sauerbrey and Doug Daniels' family connections to Thomas Built Buses are complex, but interesting. Currently, four of the five members of the family work at Thomas' Fairfield Road facility where the Saf-T-Liner® C2 is built.
Edward Wesley Jennings, pictured fifth from the left, is Curry's great grandfather and was a carpenter at Thomas Built when it still built streetcars.
Richard Curry (center) pictured with Dwight Bradshaw (left) and Guy Roberts (right) at Thomas' March 23, 2011 Sustainable Manufacturing event.
Also in this issue:
- Kansas City School District "Saving More Money Than You Can Shake A Stick At"
- Working Together To Create A Culture Of Training
- Just Ask Your Customers What They Want
- Kelley's Corner: An Update From The President & CEO
- Customers Share Their Experiences Operating SCR-Equipped Thomas Buses
- Hitting Milestones On The Road To Sustainable Manufacturing