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McClellan's Road to JCSS Bus Driver of the Year

McClellan's Road to JCSS Bus Driver of the Year

The year was 1961 in Istanbul, Turkey. For young Pete McClellan, his journey was just beginning. At eighteen years old, McClellan joined the United States AirForce. He was in chapel management during this time and also began shuttling children who lived on the base to and from a local school. This is when he fell in love with driving.

“I’ve always enjoyed driving, I guess you can consider that it was because of the children. I was a child myself when I began but I’ve really enjoyed what I do,” said McClellan.

Fast-forward to September 2023, the now 80-year old McClellan was sitting in a banquet room filled with his peers from within the Jackson County School System during the Teacher and Support Person of the Year Banquet. McClellan was a finalist for the system’s first-ever Bus Driver of the Year Award. 

While he enjoyed his dinner and watched as videos were played recognizing all 28 honorees, McClellan admits he was just happy to be in attendance and voted as a finalist by his peers within the JCSS Transportation Department. To his surprise, though, McClellan was announced the winner, and he was beyond touched by his peers. 

It was the culmination of over 60 years of driving.

“It was very shocking and humbling to receive Bus Driver of the Year. To be selected by my peers was very rewarding,” said McClellan. 

McClellan graduated high school on the 27th of May in 1961 and that June he left to join the AirForce. After basic training and taking courses at a tech school he landed himself in Istanbul later that November. 

“I grew up in Anderson, South Carolina in the forties and fifties; there were not too many opportunities at this time so I decided to join the military. The Air Force was a better choice for me,” said McClellan.

McClellan was stationed in Istanbul for 18 months. From the year 1970 to 1976 he served the Air Force in Izmir, Turkey. McClellan says he still enjoyed driving students after all the years, even as he traveled to many places throughout the world. 

Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, North Carolina, Nevada and Texas were some of the places he spent his years of service.

“I have been really fortunate to travel to these countries. I grew up on a farm in South Carolina so I used to jokingly say, I got paid to visit all these places that people pay to go to,” said McClellan.

“It was very shocking and humbling to receive Bus Driver of the Year. To be selected by my peers was very rewarding,” said McClellan.

After twenty-seven years dedicated to the Air Force, McClellan finally decided that it was time for his next chapter. In 1988, McClellan retired from the Air Force; his last station was in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Later he began driving a semi-truck for Schneider National from 1991 to 2010. McClellan had visited all fifty states while driving a truck. The long drives allowed him to see the world. He enjoyed driving and traveling throughout the years. 

McClellan had been living in Florida during his time driving for Schneider. He and his wife enjoyed their time in the Sunshine State, but did not love the storms that came along with being a resident in the state of Florida. 

“I moved from Florida to Jackson County in 2010 because my wife had enough of the hurricanes and I was on the road during that time. We found ourselves in Jackson County, and in 2015 I decided that I wanted to drive a school bus again,”said McClellan.

The road to the Jackson County School System was paved by all of his previous chapters in life. McClellan joined the JCSS team and for the past eight years he has driven students on the county’s west-side.

“I’ve watched a lot of the students grow up, now they are graduating. When I had kidney cancer in 2020 all of the parents organized a drive by to visit me; there was a police escort and about twenty-five vehicles,” said McClellan. “It was very touching.”

McClellan has ingrained himself into the JCSS culture, always placing students first. He takes pride in knowing each student and does a little extra something special on each student’s birthday. 

“The students have always been the most important thing to me. They love getting mail, so I send them a birthday card with a Dairy Queen gift card in it for their birthday,” McClellan said.

McClellan is beloved by the west side community. Residents inside Traditions of Braselton  gathered in the community clubhouse to celebrate McClellan’s birthday last January. There were over one-hundred people who attended.

There is no denying that McClellan is truly beloved by the community, and his dedication to the children’s safety and happiness is one of the many qualities that has established himself as a true transportation professional. 

Each October is Bus Driver Appreciation Day and School Bus Safety Week. The Jackson County School System appreciates all the hard work of our dedicated transportation employees, who transport over 6,000 students each day.