Thirty-eight-year fleet veteran Sam Lamerato, CPFP, superintendent of fleet maintenance for the City of Troy, Mich., was named the 2011 Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year by Government Fleet magazine at the 2011 Government Fleet Expo & Conference June 8, in San Diego.
Lamerato was one of three finalists that also included Paul Condran, equipment maintenance/fleet manager of the City of Culver City, Calif., and Erle Potter, PE, CEM, state equipment manager of the Virginia Dept. of Transportation (DOT).
Joe Frantz, vice president, sales support, of award sponsor ARI presented the award to Lamerato, who thanked his staff, industry peers, Government Fleet magazine, family, and fellow fleet managers.
"It is an honor. I'm thankful for all of my mentors, which includes all of you other fleet managers out there," Lamerato said. "I'm thankful to my staff. I'm thankful to my wife of 36 years for sticking by me and understanding what I, and those of us in the public sector, have to do to serve the public - encourage your staff to be better and make your systems, communities, and departments sustainable."
Lamerato also said he owes thanks to his biggest life influences: his parents.
"My father led by example of dedication and leadership in his work," he said. "To this day he will call me at night and ask, 'Did the City get its money's worth today?' My answer is always, 'Yes, dad, and then some!' "
Honored for Initiatives & Industry Involvement
Lamerato's initiatives include the successful implementation of an in-sourcing program by the International City Management Association; receiving the Professional Manager of the Year award for Public Fleets from the American Public Works Association (APWA); and developing, organizing, and producing two fleet conferences.
He is also a member of the APWA (at both the state and national level), the Rocky Mountain Fleet Management Association (RMFMA), past chair of the APWA Fleet Service committee, past chair of the APWA CPFP Governing council, Chrysler Police Advisory board, and contributing author of several APWA fleet manuals.
With an annual fleet budget of $7.5 million, the City of Troy's fleet department includes 16 full-time employees on a two-shift operation and two maintenance facilities. Lamerato manages a fleet of more than 500 pieces of equipment used for 15 public services departments, including fire, police, public works, engineering, assessing, building, and parks and recreation personnel.
He also oversees two fueling locations, 13 in-sourced service agreements, and the security and maintenance of the public works facility.
Running the City Fleet Like a Business
Lamerato believes a municipal fleet needs to be run like a business.
"The fleet manager must keep his finger on the pulse of his customers to ensure he is providing the best, most economical and most timely services available in the area," he said.
He also stressed the need for continual communication with City management and department directors to ensure the fleet division meets all expectations.
"I think what makes anyone successful is a passion for their job. It is not an 8-5 job for me - it is 24/7," he pointed out. "I am always observant, searching for new or better ways to improve our operation and reduce our costs, while providing dependable and efficient vehicles and equipment."
Lamerato also emphasized that an important part of the City's smooth-running operation comes from a devoted team, well-trained staff, and technicians who work together to give the best and most-efficient service to the City of Troy's customers.
"Over the years, we've developed a very dedicated team of fleet professionals who enjoy the challenges of today's vehicles and technology," he said. "The team takes extreme pride in their work, which is demonstrated by their finished products, completed on schedule, and to a high standard."
Lamerato also pointed out the importance of assembling a team that includes complementary talents and strengths.[PAGEBREAK]
"They constantly impress me with their technical skills and their professionalism shown both at work and in their personal lives," he said. "This crew loves a challenge and has a reputation for their innovations and creativity while being mindful of the time and cost on each repair. This earned them first place in '100 Best Fleets' in 2010."
After the "100 Best" recognition, the City council and management acknowledged the fleet division during a council meeting attended by staff, which was televised throughout the City.
The staff also was provided embroidered shirts and shoulder patches for their uniforms displaying their No. 1 status in "100 Best Fleets."
"I would not be where I am today without the influence of countless other peers and fleet professionals who, through networking, help me grow in my profession," Lamerato said.
Insourcing Programs Helps Sustains Fleet Division
Due to the City's proactive in-sourcing program, which began eight years ago, the fleet has successfully weathered the storm of today's tougher economic times. The International City Management Association (ICMA) reviewed the City of Troy's fleet operation and found the fleet division sustainable.
"The division has in-sourced a significant amount of work to more than replace the reduction of in-house vehicles and equipment, and has proven to be competitive in cost comparisons with contracting vendors in the private sector," Lamerato said.
This finding resulted in the fleet division maintaining current staffing and funding at a time when other divisions were facing reductions to their budgets and staff.
"What began with a phone call from a neighboring city official eight years ago, evolved into 11 signed service agreements with neighboring communities and school districts," he said.
Because many cities are dealing with reduced revenues, which in turn reduce the city's budget, Lamerato emphasized the importance for fleet managers to be able to defend the vehicle replacement fund.
"By having a vehicle replacement scorecard, and backup information on the cost consequences of vehicles not being replaced on a timely basis, the fleet manager will be prepared to answer challenges by City management and councils," he said.
He also added that the fleet manager must be able to defend their budgets by having knowledge of what the City's fully burdened shop rate is compared to the surrounding privately owned repair facilities, its direct and indirect repair ratios, and its vehicle-to-technician ratio. [PAGEBREAK]
Educational Programs & Industry Networks
One of Lamerato's personal philosophies exemplifies the need for educational programs for City management, as well as citizens, to make them aware of the importance of a well-run fleet operation to the overall services provided to them.
"Today's fleet managers need to spend time on their shop floor, reviewing repair techniques of their staff, and attending training seminars and conferences to network with their peers to broaden and reinforce their management skills," he said.
Lamerato himself stays actively involved in the industry and personally helped develop, organize, and produce two fleet conferences.
For the past 15 years, he has been co-chair of Education for Michigan APWA. While developing educational programs for Public Works professionals for streets, water, and engineering departments during that time, he noted there were very few affordable programs geared toward fleet personnel.
"I made it a goal to develop two programs a year, centrally located in the state, and specifically addressing upcoming changes and current challenges to fleet operations," Lamerato said.
The programs were opened up to include vendor booths and equipment displays. While these programs started off on a smaller scale, they quickly grew to sell-out capacities with waiting lists for vendors, display space, and even speakers.
"When reviewing the evaluations, attendees comment on the sessions being extremely helpful in solving current issues and the opportunity to network with fellow fleet personnel and vendors," Lamerato said.
Moving forward, Lamerato will continue to collaborate with city managers and other city divisions to ensure the City of Troy's ongoing success for its fleet division.
"We will continue to work toward our common goal of providing the best, most-efficient service for the tax dollars spent," he said.
Getting to Know Sam Lamerato, CPFP
- September 1974 graduate of MOTECH Automotive Education Center.
- State of Michigan Master Certified Mechanic & ASE Master Certified Auto & Medium/Heavy Truck.
- September 1974: Hired by the City of Troy as Municipal Service Employee (MSE) - D classification - Serviceman.
- December 1974: Promoted to MSE - F classification - Mechanic.
- July 1976: Promoted to MSE - G classification - Leader/Heavy Equipment Mechanic
- July 1982: Promoted to Temporary Field Supervisor.
- August 1982: Promoted to Superintendent of Fleet Maintenance.
- Hobbies: Traveling, fishing, home improvement, and the restoration of a 1966 Ford Mustang.
- Family: Wife of 36 years, one son, two daughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren.
- Life influences and mentors: His parents, former Troy City Manager Frank Gerstenecker, and former Public Works Director Donald Spurr.