Herman Basden (1942-2022): ‘Mr B’ kept Bermuda’s buses rolling
A longstanding director of the Public Transportation Board started out as an engineer and bus mechanic who climbed the ranks in a 40-year public service career.
Herman Basden credited his education at the Bermuda Technical Institute for instilling him with drive and discipline as well as “hope and a sense of purpose”, he said in a 1993 interview.
He was a teenager when he started as a mechanic’s helper at PTB before heading to the UK to immerse himself in transport engineering in 1963.
He studied road transportation engineering, specialising in heavy commercial vehicles and heavy equipment at the Willesdon College of Technology in London.
It was followed by economics and finance at Paddington College, and a diploma in transport economics and finance at London University.
Back home, Mr Basden joined the Department of Public Works in 1970.
Five years later, he transferred to the PTB and was appointed its director.
Ewart Brown, a former premier who was Minister of Transport upon Mr Basden’s retirement in 2000, said at the time: “Herman was a tough, fearless man of principle when he took over as director in 1975.
“Although he faced a bus strike the first day as the boss, it only strengthened his resolve to work with his drivers and the union to reduce the number of labour disputes and the inconvenience to passengers.
“This will stand as one of his most significant contributions to the industry and to Bermuda.“
In condolences posted online, Dr Brown said he had known Mr Basden from age 12 at the Technical Institute.
“From that time until today, our paths have crossed in numerous ways and in each instance, I got to know the measure of the man.”
He said Mr Basden was “without a doubt, a leader wherever he settled”.
Bermuda’s first buses rolled out when Mr Basden was a youngster – and his tenure covered landmarks from the introduction of radio controlled buses to the creation of a comprehensive island-wide bus schedule and taking on a new, air-conditioned fleet.
Born on Happy Valley Road in Pembroke and raised in the Pond Hill area, Mr Basden later moved to St George’s where he ran the restaurant Tavern by the Sea.
A family tribute called him “a community man” marked by his generosity and “warm, magnetic and charismatic personality, with both a quick wit and an excellent sense of humour – he was often the life of the party”.
Mr Basden also founded a finance club, Club 10, in 1971 – inspired in part by his experiences in London where he took jobs such as washing dishes to pay for his studies.
Begun with a group of ten members to manage savings, the club branched into investments and business – with Mr Basden handling the books and directing its operations.
Wayne Furbert, the transport minister, said Mr Basden was widely known as “Mr B” and was well-respected in the ministry.
“When he walked into any room, he commanded the respect of everyone,” Mr Furbert said. “He was very serious when it came to the advancement of public transportation and services.
“Many will not recall the bus garage being located on East Broadway back in the day.
“With his vision and oversight, the operation was eventually moved to the current location on Palmetto Road in Devonshire.
“This was a great accomplishment that brought the aged garage facility into the next generation.”
Randy Rochester, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Public Works, said: “Mr B, as I called him, sought me out from my days as a mechanic at the Government Quarry in the 1980s.”
He said Mr Basden “took me under his wing” after hiring him.
“Eventually I would become the assistant director of PTB, then on to the director of TCD – which made him extremely proud.”
In a later chat, Mr Basden congratulated Mr Rochester on going beyond him by becoming a PS.
“That was so humbling, as it felt as though he was telling me that this was a changing of the guard,” Mr Rochester said.
“When I received the call from Kim Swan advising me that my good friend had passed, I went into a daze and simply reflected on our time together.
“He started out as my employer and mentor, but in the end, he was my confidant and true friend. Rest in peace, Mr B.”
• Herman Leon Basden, former director of the Public Transportation Board, was born on March 10, 1942. He died on December 1, 2022, aged 80.