In his Mafia-dominated hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, Bill Shranko thought he would win election as mayor in 1979 as a reform candidate.
Organized crime was so pervasive, he recalled, “In Youngstown, you would pay the barber 50 cents to cut your hair and $2 to start your car.”
He had three terms under his belt as a Republican city council member in an overwhelmingly Democratic city and a stretch as the chief of staff for the outgoing mayor. Four years earlier, he had run for mayor as an independent knowing he would lose, but then switched to Democrat for the 1979 race.
“I thought I was going to win. I thought I had it,” he said.
When he finished a close second, he decided to leave Youngstown to reduce the stress in his life and make a fresh start.
After a short stint in Texas, he arrived in Las Vegas in 1981 to get into the hospitality industry. While he was getting settled in, he took a job as a cab driver expecting that it would be temporary.
Thirty-two years later, he still works in the industry as the chief operating officer of Yellow Checker Star Transportation, Las Vegas’ second-largest cab company. This span included a dozen years at Whittlesea Bell Transportation, another cab company.
Before that, his career included operating a 150-ton crane and a stint in the Navy, starting with an early enlistment program while he was a junior in high school, that included four years of active duty and seven years in the ready reserves. He had also finished two years at what is now Youngstown State University, planning to become a high school history teacher and football coach.
At the age of 69, following a year that included a serious heart attack, bypass surgery and a two-month strike by drivers, he still regards retirement as an abstract concept. “I am having such a good time, I could see going another five or six years,” he said.
What do you like to do in off hours?
Believe it or not, I’m an anthropologist. I love to study people and different cultures. I also love classical music and opera, Beethoven and Mozart. And I am psycho for college football, especially for the Naval Academy.
How have the cardiac problems and recovery changed your life?
I lost 75 pounds over two years before I had the heart attack and I thought I had it taken care of. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. Since the bypass, I have been feeling very good. I have my exercise routine in order, swimming, playing golf (a 16 or 17 handicap), walking. It was also nice to see all the concern from friends and family.
You spent years doing blue-collar work before moving into management. Do you think that is important training?
I think it is the foundation of the preparation for our supervisors. It works well for us. I think driving helps a supervisor develop an empathy for the drivers, knowing the business and knowing what they face. If people know they work hard they have a chance to move up, instead of hiring everyone from the outside, it is invaluable for breeding loyalty and a work ethic. Some companies do not do that and they are not competitive and have huge turnover rates.
What did you like about driving?
Interacting with the passengers. What brings you to Vegas? Where do you like to go? What are your interests? There are so many amazing things to see and do in Las Vegas that we want them to come back. We are very much a part of the tourist industry.
Why do you keep going at your age?
I am having a good time and it helps me to stay healthy by doing it. Without a doubt it helps me because it is a challenge every day. I am even looking forward to the next contract negotiation. I find the whole process fascinating, fascinating.