The outgoing group of UMA Board Members has made UMA history in several ways. Their ranks include the first woman and first Canadian elected to the board and the only Board Member picked to serve as chair twice. Their combined decades of volunteer work have benefitted the motorcoach industry and the members of the United Motorcoach Association in many ways.
Tom Ready is finishing up his last term on the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) board after 32 years that will end with his last meeting in Long Beach, California at EXPO this month. He was first appointed after his father, a founding member of the organization in 1971 and an original Board Member, stepped down.
A few years after he was appointed, the board decided to shift to elections and establish regions. Ready kept getting elected. He was the only UMA Board Member elected to the chair twice — in the ’90s and in the ’10s.
“He has been that steady factor on the board that brings in the history of the organization and helps blend that with the new Board Members. He’s very knowledgeable about the industry and was just a great Board Member. He really helped UMA through a lot of tough times and really put forth a lot of effort and put a lot into making UMA a great organization,” says current Chair Jeff Polzien.
Ready is among five outgoing Board Members, who include James Brown, Larry Hundt, Joan Libby and Brian Annett.
Ensuring fair treatment
Like Ready, Joan Libby has been on the board for many years and brought history and experience to the role.
“She was always looking out for the membership and really fought to make UMA an organization that works hard for the membership,” Polzien said.
Libby will go down in UMA history as the first female Board Member elected by the organization’s Operator Members. She built a reputation as a hard worker during her tenure of more than more than 15 years, serving on several committees, including membership, meetings and bylaws.
Her UMA involvement began soon after she acquired Cavalier Coach in 1986 after selling her travel agency.
“UMA was very instrumental in helping me out in those years,” Libby recalled. “I learned to have so much respect for the organization. Somebody said, ‘Why don’t you run for the Board?’ I did and I won.”
She continued to be re-elected. She decided not to run in the most recent election after selling her motorcoach business in early 2020.
Under her ownership, Cavalier Coach organized transportation for Boston Marathon participants and staff for more than 25 years.
“We carried 35,000 in one day – one morning, actually, because you got to get them out there early,” said Libby, who oversaw 800 buses for the international event.
Cavalier was also the first carrier to provide transportation for the Harvard Alumni Association during the prestigious university’s graduation ceremonies.
Looking back at her time on the Board, one of her best memories was organizing more than 400 attendees at the UMA EXPO in New Orleans who volunteered for Habitat for Humanity after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“I was very active in a lot of different things,” Libby said.
She often worked alongside UMA staff at EXPOs, assembling ther registration bags and doing other things for attendees.
“Her biggest interest was making sure everybody was treated fairly,” Ready said.
Smaller operators’ perspective
A steady voice on the board has been James Brown, who launched Magic Carpet Tours Bus Services in Richmond, Virginia, in the 1980s, says Polzien. Widely respected in the industry, he was elected the first black President of the Virginia Motorcoach Association (VMA) before being elected to the UMA board.
He was the 2013 recipient of the Robert T. Mitchell Public Service Award, presented by the VMA.
“James is a dedicated old bus guy, who was an East Coast Greyhound driver when Greyhound did tours all over the country before he started his business. He’s one of those guys who carried his toolbox with him because he could fix anything on a bus. He brought in a lot of that mechanical insight to the board. He also brought the perspective of the smaller operators because he knows so many from his years traveling the country,” Ready said.
Brian Annett served as a UMA Chair during his 12-year board tenure. He brought a lot of industry experience to his board roles, Polzien said.
Annett is a second-generation owner — along with brother David — of Annett Bus Lines in Sebring, Florida.
“He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the bus industry, and he’s level-headed,” said Ready.
Most of his tenure – eight years – was on the UMA Executive Committee, including two years as chairman, a post he held at the “green” age of 38.
“I appreciate the confidence the board members placed in my leadership ability. The experience taught me a lot personally and professionally,” Annett shared in a thank-you note to his Region 2 constituents.
“I was and am passionate about UMA because I felt it was an organization that lined up with our company. Annett Bus Lines fought for operating authority in the mid ‘70s against monopolistic carriers. My mom and dad came from nothing in the bus world, saw a public need and filled it. Our company is a true American dream, and it lives on today providing service to a traveling public across all of Florida.”
“UMA has always been a part of that success. We leaned on the expertise the association provided from safety to maintenance and of course, the industry’s great Motorcoach Expo. UMA was our voice to lawmakers – as small as we are, collectively we are loud. UMA, I feel, was loud on topics that helped us, time and time again and still are to this day.”
His advice for UMA’s newly elected Board Members is to work together as a unit.
“I was fortunate during my time to have boards that respected each other, and while we may have had differences of opinion, we always tried to put membership first. That’s very different from our current political landscape in the country. Don’t become politicians and always work for the good of the membership,” he wrote.
Annett added that his involvement wouldn’t have been possible without the sacrifices of his family, including his wife, Christi; son, Drew; and daughter, Abi. He also said that serving in this volunteer post wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his brother and business partner David, the company’s employees and his parents, who started the business in 1976.
Larry Hundt was the first Canadian representative on the UMA Board and is credited with bridging the gap between the Canadian and U.S. operators.
He brought a lot of common sense and did a great job representing the Canadians, according to Polzien.
Hundt also spent about a decade as Chair of the meetings committee, where he led the herculean effort to plan the annual EXPOs.
“He really put a lot of energy into planning and was good at it,” Ready said.
Hundt says he opened the door for representation for Canadian motorcoach operators with a comment in conversation with UMA Board Members at a social event at EXPO. The next day, the Board unanimously approved the idea.
“I believe it is a good move because the industry in Canada has different issues and political challenges, so it’s been nice to have our issues represented to the Board and for them to be kept abreast of what’s going on in Canada,” Hundt said. “I feel a little lonely because I’m the only Canadian Board Member, but Canada is a much smaller market and doesn’t justify having more Members like the other regions.”
His 10 years leading the EXPO planning committee came when UMA and the National Bus Association (NTA) began co-locating annual conventions together. His tour experience – as the owner of Great Canadian Holidays & Coaches in Kitchener, Ontario – made him the most qualified Board Member to lead the joint effort.
The two organizations collaborated on five conferences before deciding the arrangement wasn’t working.
“It didn’t fit like we had hoped it would,” Hundt said. “The problem was that you’ve got a bunch of tour operators and tour suppliers that are going to social events, along with coach operators and their suppliers. The biggest single complaint is that we diluted everybody and it was hard for people to connect.”
Agreeing on a location for the conferences also was difficult.
“NTA was accustomed to going where they could get strong financial support,” Hundt said. “UMA’s focus was always going to where it was sunny because Members wanted to get away from the cold weather in January and February.”
While the NTA-UMA collaboration wasn’t meant to be, bringing the U.S. and Canadian operators together was a win for both markets.
“We as a country have trouble getting our operators together, and we don’t have strong representation across the country, so UMA presents the greatest opportunity to get the most Canadian operators together,” Hundt said. “EXPO is a great meeting place for Canadian coach operators. The show is a chance for us to connect and further their relationships. I’m very pleased with the way that turned out.”
‘Diesel in my blood’
During his more than three decades of service, Tom Ready worked with all of the organization’s paid staff leaders, hiring all of them except founding President Wayne Smith.
He was on the executive board and chaired the finance committee for over two decades. He was the first person to chair the committees when UMA began hosting EXPOs. He chaired the bylaws committee, which changed the board structure to add an executive board and rotating officer positions. Those changes resulted in 12-year maximum terms for members, which led to his term coming to an end this year. His final term was extended during the pandemic, when the board decided to postpone elections while UMA suspended dues and focused on several initiatives, including the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act, to help struggling members as the industry nearly collapse under COVID-19 restrictions.
Looking back, some of his proudest accomplishments were leading the effort to purchase UMA’s office building in Alexandria with cash from the organization’s reserves, and acquiring BusRates.com, which connects operators with people looking for charter services.
“I kind of got my nose into everything with the association, but I loved doing it. All the things we did was to make sure the association was rock solid,” Ready said.
While he sold Ready Bus Lines, his family’s 60-year-old motorcoach operation in La Crescent, Minnesota, in 2014, Ready continues to do tour planning for conventions for corporations and student groups.
Though he no longer owns a motorcoach company, he plans to stay a member of UMA and continue to attend EXPO.
“I’ll still be there. I’ve still got I still got diesel in my blood.”