When Mary Joyce Ivers’ children were young, every once in a while she would stop into the office with them. Seeing her do her job, they determined that “all a manager does is talk.” But Ivers, who was recently named the Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year, said, “All that talking and building relationships accomplishes so many great things. I hope I made my kids proud!”
As fleet and facilities manager for the City of Ventura, Calif., for the last 17 years, Ivers, CPFP, has led a long list of fleet initiatives. Recent successes include implementing online preventive maintenance (PM) scheduling, launching an online motor pool reservation system, and improving PM intervals for Police and Fire customers to reduce maintenance costs, to name a few. Under Ivers’ leadership, the fleet earned back-to-back No. 1 Small Fleet honors in the Leading Fleets competition, as well as certification from the American Public Works Association (APWA), and ended 2016 injury-free. For Ivers, all of these accomplishments come back to one guiding principle: a focus on the people behind the work. In other words, all of that “talking” her kids noticed has paid off.
“I am motivated by all the people I interact with daily,” she said. “I enjoy learning about people and hearing about what they do. I am rewarded by seeing our team grow and improve and being proud of our accomplishments.”
Ivers said being named the Fleet Manager of the Year — an award sponsored by General Motors Fleet — has been both an honor and a humbling experience. With such talented competition, including fellow finalists Michael Brennan and Al Curtis, she was shocked to learn of her win, especially since these same people have helped her develop as a fleet manager.
Ivers’ focus on professional development, safety, and customer service have all made for a better fleet operation, while also ultimately improving the lives of the people who matter: her employees, her customers, and the community.
Developing the Fleet Community
The City of Ventura operates one maintenance facility with six technicians and a lead technician. With ever-changing vehicle and equipment technology, Ivers said professional development is critical for maintaining the fleet.
“Our seven mechanics have been with us from five years to 35 years, and they do a great job of staying current,” she said. “Professional development is important so we can provide a competitive fleet operation and the motivation for some mechanics to prepare for a future promotion.”
Ivers offers her team a multitude of development opportunities. For instance, technicians recently visited the State Fire Academy to improve their technical skills on heavy-duty engines and transmissions, hydraulic systems, and fire equipment. The team also participated in a grant-funded class for hybrid-electric maintenance through a community college. Technicians are trained on new shop equipment such as diagnostic software, new tire machines, new smog reporting requirements, compliance to tire certification, and shop safety. In 2014, this dedication to development earned the fleet APWA accreditation.
Beyond training, recently, Ivers turned a significant fleet challenge into a development opportunity. When recruiting efforts to replace the retiring fleet supervisor proved unfruitful, Ivers had an idea: offer temporary acting assignments to the two technicians interested in the role and let them try their hand at it.
“It has been rewarding to see one of the mechanics embrace the challenge and offer new ideas such as improved shop scheduling; real-time, online labor capture; and evaluating the PM program intervals,” she said.
For Ivers, development extends beyond her fleet, too. She promotes fleet management best practices through participation in local and national fleet groups, embraces the role of on-the-job mentor, makes presentations to college and high school students in automotive classes, and hosts fleet training summits. Ivers has a passion for fleet management, and it shows in her willingness to freely share her knowledge.
Making Safety About People
For Ivers, safety isn’t about just checking a box; it’s about caring for people. Ivers recognizes that employees are the fleet’s most valuable resources — and that makes safety priority No. 1. “Safety is critical in everything we do,” Ivers said. “We want our employees to work safely and productively and get home to their families.”
The Fleet Department oversees the safety program for three departments: Parks, Public Works, and Ventura Water. That responsibility includes providing annual Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety training and education on topics related to defensive driving and safe driving habits to fleet technicians and employee operators.
These safety efforts have paid off. Last year, the fleet department celebrated zero on-the-job injuries, and the Public Works department overall went more than 170,000 hours in two years without a single injury.
Again, Ivers sees the people behind the safety program: Her team helps customers stay safe and do their jobs, and those customers in turn support the safety of the community.
“We are the behind-the-scenes first responders,” Ivers said. “Our mechanics know that the Police Interceptor may leave the shop and drive at 90 miles an hour. We want our customers to be safe and productive in delivering their critical services to the community.”
Focusing on Customer Service
With a consistent focus on the safety and development of people, it’s no surprise Ivers is passionate about customer service. “We value the relationships we have developed with our customer liaisons, and it is great to work together on innovative solutions,” she said.
Ivers makes the fleet’s commitments to the departments they serve clear through a service level agreement, which lists services included in the base rate. When requirements fall outside of this scope, Ivers works with departments to identify the most appropriate solution.
For instance, the Water Department recently sought to purchase a new truck for hydrant flushing and water treatment in the field. With a $500,000 price tag, Ivers considered the options carefully. Together, they decided to retire an underutilized crane and use the replacement funds for the new truck. Ivers then negotiated the terms of purchase for the truck to ensure the fleet could inspect the vehicle and verify it complied with specs and operated correctly before making payment.
Ivers’ overarching goal is to have her team worry about the safety, reliability, and maintenance of equipment so customers like the Police and Fire departments can properly deliver the services they provide the community.
“Our City of Ventura fleet team [members] care about the job they perform and take safety seriously,” she said. “They embrace change and understand the importance of implementing new technologies and providing excellent customer service.”
Celebrating the Win
When Ivers submitted her Fleet Manager of the Year application, she didn’t think she would win. Instead, she saw it as an exercise in professional development — an opportunity to reflect on the operation and its best practices, then set new goals.
As a woman who is all about the people, it’s no surprise she credits those around her for supporting her success — and wants to pay it forward, too.
“I have had amazing mentors and a dedicated, hard-working fleet team. I am excited to represent our City of Ventura and the fleet team: Donny, Silvia, Barbara, Courtney, Ken, Robert, Tim, John, Jeff, and Frank. This is a magnificent honor to represent our small fleet nationwide,” she said. “I care so much about each and every one of them and the fleet community. It inspires me to give back and help mentor our future technicians and managers.”