Tequita Dudley enjoys being in transit, whether that means helping run Longview’s bus system or traveling to Venice, Paris or London.
The 50-year-old dynamo made her first move when she was just 3 years old, her family relocating from Henderson, where she was born, to Longview. Then she stayed put for a while, attending McClure Elementary and Foster Middle School, then graduating from Longview High.
Dudley earned an associate degree from Kilgore College and graduated from Texas College in Tyler with a bachelor’s degree in business management.
Soon she was on the move again, as a driver for what was then the Deere Recovery Unit operated by Sabine Valley Center in White Oak.
After 13 years, Dudley left Deere and drove for Sabine Valley’s Youth Center for five years. She next worked for a long-haul trucking company.
Then she heard about an opportunity that could enable her to achieve her dream: Longview was starting a new bus system.
“I’ve always enjoyed public transportation. That’s the reason I went back to college to get my business degree. My ultimate goal is to run my own transportation company, to become general manager,” she said.
Dudley returned to Longview and joined Longview Transit as a driver in 2003, its first year.
“I love helping people. It was a good way for me to help people. … It just tugged at my heart. Public transportation is a people business,” Dudley continued.
“I’ve always liked working with the public. I like to meet new people. I like to travel,” she said.
Stephanie Hollis has known Dudley since they were both sixth-graders at Foster Middle School.
“She inspires me to work harder at things. And she does that by example. She’s very organized. She sets goals,” Hollis said.
Though Dudley has experienced challenging situations in her life, she found a way through them, Hollis added.
“People use their brokenness to stay where they are. She doesn’t do that. Even in the midst of what she’s going through, she’ll turn around and serve somebody. She turns her tragedies into tools,” Hollis said.
After joining Longview Transit, Dudley drove shuttle buses for more than a year. Later she was promoted to paratransit coordinator, supervisor, director of operations, and, most recently, assistant general manager.
She has worked with five different general managers during her 16 years with Longview Transit.
“I’ve been the one consistent thing here since the organization started,” she said.
Her days are hectic, as the company works to make its routes more efficient for those who use its services. In addition, the transportation center itself is moving, which involves a lot of construction.
As assistant general manager, Dudley spends her time answering questions from the public and helping the paratransit service dispatcher. She also ensures that budgets are on track, employees are productive and the transportation system is safe.
“Anything can happen when I walk in the door. … I make sure every department is running smoothly on a daily basis,” Dudley said.
Public transit is “an asset because it allows people to go from welfare to work. … It gives them a sense of independence,” she continued.
“We’ve seen people who started walking (to work), then they took transit, now they have cars. We’ve lost ridership because people were successful,” Dudley said.
Dudley said her years as a bus driver help her make better decisions as a manager.
“Being in that seat taught me what that driver goes through on a daily basis. I relate to the drivers better because they understand that I’ve had that experience,” she said.
To advance in the field of public transportation, people usually have to move from city to city. It’s rare to stay in one job for more than five years, she said.
“I’ve stayed here because of my love for this community,” Dudley said, adding that she routinely receives requests to apply for higher-paying jobs elsewhere.
“A lot of people chase money. Money is not my major thing. … I love this community; my family is here,” she said. “I don’t know when I’ll make that move. I’m kind of standing in the waiting room right now.”
Dudley also works part-time at the Drug and Alcohol Testing Center, as a front-office person and collector.
“All I want to do is work, travel, and see my grandkids,” she said. She recently traveled to Rome; Paris is her “all-time favorite vacation destination.” Dudley, who is divorced, has an adult son, Trymaine, and three grandchildren: Carlos, Chance and T’Liyah.
She is on the adult usher board at her church, Red Oak Baptist, and a member of Zonta International and Sigma Beta Delta, a business management honor society. She also serves on the Community Healthcore Foundation Board and the Kilgore Business Advisory Board.
Dudley is a co-facilitator for Partners in Prevention and a Forever Friends mentor for a sixth-grade girl at Foster Middle School. In addition, she’s a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, volunteer and teaches fifth-graders about business as part of a Junior Achievement program.
Lyndell McAllister called Dudley “fabulous.”
“She’s a wonderful person. She is so capable … and giving of her time and energy,” said McAllister, director of Partner in Prevention’s mentoring and Bridges Out of Poverty programs.
“I think it’s kind of rare to see somebody who works such a demanding job, but who is so willing to give her time and energy,” McAllister continued. “She’s seriously investing and spending time with young people who are experiencing very challenging times in their lives.”
Dudley said the most important things in her life are her grandchildren and “my faith in God – just living for God. My mother (Gloria Jackson) was a giver, she raised us to be givers. … As part of my legacy to my grandkids, I’m a big giver, not only of my money, but of my time.”
She knows she still has much to accomplish in her life.
“The love of God gets me out of bed. This job motivates me, the people that I serve motivate me,” Dudley said.
“I have an awesome staff whom I work with, in both jobs. … I feel that I get up to go to my second home. It never feels like work to me,” she said.