Tonya_EllisNAME:Tonya Ellis

TITLE: Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) Director of Marketing and Community Relations

BIRTHPLACE: Pascagoula, Mississippi

EDUCATION: International Baccalaureate (IB) at Pensacola High School (1991)
University of West Florida: B.S. in Marketing (2000) & A.A. in Business Administration (1994)

Prior to 2004: I worked various jobs as an Insurance Company VP Executive Assistant, an Insurance Representative (Tampa), and other administrative office positions.
2004-2007: ECAT Marketing Assistant/ ADA Compliance
I developed advertising and marketing materials promoting ADA and transit awareness. I supervised Travel Training Volunteers and the Free ADA Ride programs, currently duplicated in other Florida counties. I was the liaison with Pensacola Bay Transportation in administering ADA paratransit services.
2007-2011: West Florida Regional Planning Council – Regional Transportation Planner
I produced and collaborated with the government agencies and transit systems on the creation of update of the Transit Development Plans for the three Transportation Planning Organizations (TPO) and the individual Transportation Disadvantaged Service Plans (TDSP) for seven counties.
2011 to present: As the Marketing and Community Relations Director, I currently manage all of ECAT’s public communication and transit marketing activities, which include public outreach campaigns, media relations, advertising, event planning, website management, marketing materials, and customer service support. I oversee the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) Transportation Program, which is contracted through our local Community Transportation Coordinator. I also supervise the Travel Training and Mobility Management Program (New Freedom Grant) which conducts educational training sessions with social agencies, care providers, and numerous disabled groups regarding ADA eligibility and accessibility.


YEARS WORKING WITH ECAT: collectively totaling 5.5 years

The Transit Marketing community is like a sorority or fraternity. Everyone understands each other’s challenges, regardless of the size of the transit system. Everyone is willing to help when asked. It is exciting to meet like-minded people with the same enthusiasm and passion as myself.
I am definitely a “cheerleader” for public transportation…love it, love it, love it……..!!

BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN MARKETING TRANSIT: It is a challenge to convince other transit fields on the critical importance of transit marketing and public relations. Connecting to the community, passengers, and government officials may not be as tangible as other fields like, operations and bus maintenance. Ultimately, effective communication to the customers (internal and external) is paramount when acknowledging and addressing their needs.

I am a member and actively participate in the Florida Public Transportation Association. I am also a member of the Florida Transit Marketing Network.
Although work keeps me busy, I do find time to also volunteer with my daughter’s Girl Scouts and her school PTA.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND: (family, pets, hobbies, pastimes, etc)
My hobbies are fashion, shoes, and shopping (individually or all at once). I enjoy relaxing inside at home when I am not working. I have been told I have a great sense of humor. I love to laugh and spend time with family and friends. FAMILY…FASHION….FUN!!!

CHILDHOOD AMBITION: Get a degree in Fashion Merchandising and the Personal Stylist for Oprah Winfrey

INSPIRATION: My dad Raymond, a Vietnam Veteran, who passed away on Father’s Day 2004. Although I was the most expressive child amongst the four of us, he never discouraged my individuality, originality, or creativity.


FAVORITE COLOR: Crimson Red, Fuchsia Pink, & Royal Purple… anything bright and sparkly…..

FAVORITE CANDY: Mike & Ikes and Hershey’s Kisses with Almonds (varies with my mood)

What is the one thing most people do not realize about you?
I proudly served in the U.S. Army for eight years, spending a large portion in the Army Reserves. I was an E-5 Sergeant-Multi-Channel Radio Operator in the Signal Brigade based at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Although I was lovingly nicknamed “Private Benjamin”, I was always the consummate professional solider—-with style, of course! I was also honored with 842nd Signal Company Unit Solider of the Year in 2000.
Communicating to people, in the military or in public transportation, seems to be the career path that suits me and I truly love it!!