2016 Hospitality Hero – Kamar Harleem & Admir Smajic

Kamar Harleem - 2016 Hospitality Hero with Mayor Slay

Kamar Harleem being congratulated by Mayor Francis Slay for representing St. Louis with class, dignity and professionalism as a taxi driver with St. Louis County Cab Company.

The definition of hero, a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities, applies to both men who have been selected to receive the honor of Hospitality Hero by Explore St. Louis.  Kamar Harleem and Admir Smajic were chosen for separate acts of heroism that each of them performed in service to the community.  We, at St. Louis County Cab, congratulate and honor Kamar and Admir for being outstanding gentlemen and taxi drivers.

Kamar Harleem was chosen for his life-saving act of heroism on January 13, 2016.  As was told to us by a passenger and long-time customer, Kamar spotted a young man lying behind a vehicle next to the road.  Recognizing that there was a person in distress, Kamar calmly but quickly turned around and returned to the person in need.  The young man was in the midst of a seizure which was brought on by a serious medical condition for which he was being treated.  Kamar’s ability to remain calm and make the right decisions at every critical turn allowed for emergency treatment to be south, provided and to end this story in a positive way.  When asked about these events, Kamar hesitated to describe his involvement.  He didn’t want this recognition for what he did.  He did it simply because it was the right thing to do and he was in the position to do what was right when it was needed.  For this, Kamar Harleem is a 2016 Hospitality Hero as chosen by Explore St. Louis.

2016 Hospitality Hero - Kamar Harleem

Kamar Harleem is a proud Hospitality Hero!

Admir was chosen Hospitality Hero for a less dramatic but no less heroic event in January.  This event is best described by the customer who submitted it to us:  “Please thank driver Admir of Cab #626 for driving us home from St. Clair Hospital today (1/9/16, 11:00 a.m.) during the brief but ugly snow squall. My husband was discharged from the hospital with a heavily-bandaged, non-weight- bearing foot following serious surgery. In fact the trip began by keeping Admir waiting outside while the nurses finished their work and brought us down. Sorry for the delay! Our driveway is short but very steep and slick when it snows. Admir was able to back his vehicle part way up, and then pushed my husband’s wheelchair up-hill through the extremely slippery snow and slush into the dry garage. This took strength and determination, and he was also concerned for my safety as I made my way on foot. Finally, he saw us safely up a short flight of stairs into the kitchen and made sure that my husband was seated in a chair. Truly this was not just courteous, it was heroic! Please let him know what an important role he played in our lives today.” Most sincerely, Cathy (age 68) and Thomas (age 67), Grateful Passengers

Heroism takes on many forms in our lives.  Sometimes it is a dramatic act during extraordinary circumstances.  Most often, heroism is an extraordinary act during non-dramatic circumstances.  What remains consistent is that heroes exist everywhere and in every occupation.  Kamar and Admir, you were both heroes to people in a time of need.  You make yourselves, your families, us and your industry proud!

Jerry Hanks – 43 Years Of Outstanding Service!

Jerry Hanks

Jerry and Norma Jean Hanks with County Cab President, Basil Rudawsky

Over 50 years ago, while serving as a young man in the United States Air Force in New Mexico, Jerry Hanks met a young lady whom he married a short time later.  Over the past 51 years of marriage, Jerry and Norma Jean Hanks have built a lifetime of memories together.  For Jerry, the proudest of those memories are the 9 children that they raised.  43 of those 51 years, Jerry spent driving a cab with us.  Jerry has decided to hang up his cab keys and retire.  They have decided to return to Norma Jean’s home state of New Mexico. They plan to spend their time with family, friends and relaxing.

Jerry is a warm, friendly character who is always quick with a smile and to say something nice.  He tells many fond stories of his 43 years as a driver.  What Jerry remembers most fondly are the people: the customers, his fellow drivers and the Gregerson family. During his 43 years driving a cab, Jerry Hanks logged over 2 million miles with an impeccable safety record that he is extremely proud of.  The calls that we’ve received through the years about Jerry all reflect the strong, ethical,  and dignified man that we know and respect.

Today, we celebrate Jerry’s retirement along with his and Norma Jean’s return to New Mexico.  While we will miss Jerry’s professionalism and his warm and friendly demeanor, we wish him a happy, healthy and relaxing retirement.  Let someone else drive now, Jerry!

Meet Larry Jenkins – A County Cab Classic

Larry and his classic County Cab smile!

Larry and his classic County Cab smile!

In July of 1983, Larry Jenkins started driving a cab for St. Louis County Cab Company.  It took him about a week to decide that this was the place that he wanted to be.  So, after having driven at County Cab for 3 weeks, Larry asked to put his own car on the fleet and to become a cab owner/operator.  Just like that, Larry Jenkins became the first minority cab owner/operator in County Cab’s fleet.

Over the past 32 years, Larry has built an extremely successful business as a cab owner/operator in St. Louis.  When you ask him about it, he gets very emotional recounting the things that he has accomplished in his life.  But, he will tell you that his greatest accomplishment in life has been his family.  Larry has been married to his wife Carol for 40 years.  He has 3 children and 4 grandchildren, all of whom make him light up with pride.  One of his daughters, Christy, worked her way through college at Washington University as an agent in the Care Center at County Cab.  She is now a nurse educator.  His son, Rosethnu, played wide receiver for the Mizzou football team and his daughter, Erin, graduated from UM-St. Louis and works at United Health Care.  Anyone who knows Larry knows how proud he is of being a cab driver with St. Louis County Cab Company.

Larry & His New Cab

Larry & His New Cab

As Larry puts into service the 8th cab of his career, we want to recognize him for being an outstanding husband, father, grandfather, cab driver and representative of County Cab!

The holidays are for giving – so don’t get taken for a ride!


Being a cab driver means spending your day riding with people – sharing a very small space with someone that they likely just met. This experience creates an environment of sharing and caring – sharing a conversation, talking about sports or the weather, caring by helping with groceries, helping someone that is less nimble negotiate the steps to their home – it is a very selfless profession.

As we enter the holiday season, our drivers should be thankful for what they have and be in a giving spirit.  But it may be challenging for them to think that way since for the last 2 months they have been taken for a ride.  Taken for a ride by politicians and city leaders that feel that it is completely acceptable to let a multi-billion dollar machine operate outside the law.  Laws that our drivers respect and follow because it is important to their passengers to know that they are riding with a safe driver in a safe, insured vehicle.  It is easy to understand that they are not feeling thankful right now.


Despite the struggles that our drivers are encountering right now, we are all committed to continue to provide the safe, reliable, predictable transportation that our residents and visitors deserve.  As we all enter the holiday season and begin the quest for gifts for our loved ones, we often shop for the best deal to save money.  We check the sale flyers, we clip coupons, we get up an an insane hour and stand in line – all to save money on those gifts that our loved ones will cherish.  We take great care in making the right choice – we are engaged and educated consumers.

We would like to suggest you take that same approach when you find a need for on-demand transportation. Don’t get taken for a ride.   If you become educated about the options that are available, you won’t get taken for a ride too.  We would like to make your on-demand transportation “shopping” easier with a few suggestions.

  • Legal, fully compliant transportation is the smartest choice!  You have to ask why a company that has no investment of any kind in our region feels that it is in the best interest of our citizens to operate illegal vehicles with illegal drivers.  We have been a part of this community for over  80 years.  We are local, we care about our neighbors and we will follow the rules because it is the right thing to do.
  • Being legal and fully compliant is easier than hanging an ornament on a tree.  Our regulating body passed common sense rules that would make it extremely easy for any on-demand transportation company to obey the laws to protect our citizens.  Not only is it the right thing to do but it is so simple.  Not following these rules is the equivalent of being a felonious scrooge during the holidays.


  • Predicable pricing is the smartest financial choice.  Our rates are the same regardless of the time of day, the day of the week or which holiday you may need a ride on.  As the demand for cabs will surge during the holidays – our prices will not surge.  When the other on-demand transportation companies get 25 – 35% of the fare that you pay, it is obvious why they surge prices when the demand is the highest.  More money in their pocket means less in yours. Don’t get SURGED!
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As our drivers continue to struggle to make a good professional living and serve the residents of our community, politicians and city leaders openly ignore the enforcement of state and local laws.  Our drivers are professional and willing to compete with anyone providing the same service on a fair and level playing field. But when that playing field is knowingly slanted to help an outsider endanger our citizens, it makes it a little tough to be in the holiday spirit.  Despite these disparities, we give you our word that our drivers will stand committed to providing rides 24/7/365 for the same consistent prices and in all weather conditions – and with a caring and sharing attitude.  WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!!!  Happy holidays to you all!!

Debbie Rudawsky

Co-Owner/Chief Financial Officer


Competition is good – fair rules must protect the public and apply the same standards for all vehicles for hire

As a small family-owned and operated business with roots in the St. Louis community that are 80+ years deep, all we want is a fair opportunity to serve customers well and succeed on a daily basis.  We exist within a regulatory environment with fair rules that are purposed with protecting the riding public.

At County & Yellow Cab, we strive to exceed our customers expectations every single day with every ride that we provide.  We know that we are only as good as the last time that you rode in one of our vehicles.  Competition is at the root of what drives us to succeed.  As our regulating body, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, considers changing their regulations to allow Transportation Network Companies to legally operate in the St. Louis region, they asked for comments from the general public.

As a co-owner and 3rd generation operator of two of our areas ground transportation providers – County & Yellow Cab and Best Transportation, I felt it was my duty and responsibility to provide my comments and suggestions.  Below is a copy of the letter that I submitted to the MTC.  If you peel away the layers of this “onion”, I have two main points – ensure public safety and fair rules that apply to all providing the same vehicle for hire service.


county-cab-taxiBest Logo - Black & Burgandy

To all involved at the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission –

I would like to thank you for your strong commitment to the public safety issues related to legalizing any vehicle for hire alternative to the St. Louis Region.  I am writing this letter as a co-owner and operator of both a taxicab company and a premium transportation company.  As an operator that has experience in both areas of vehicle for hire transportation, I feel that I have a unique perspective that may be valuable when considering what regulation changes are necessary.

In my opinion, transportation network companies (TNC’s) should be subjected to the same rules that we have followed to the letter since the inception of the MTC.  A lot of publicity surrounds the possibility of their arrival in St. Louis, but we should all recognize that the technology they offer is already offered to riders by some of the taxi companies operating here.  But in the spirit of welcoming competition, customer choice and having many transportation alternatives available to our citizens and visitors, there are certain rules that can and should be changed for all.  There are also some rules that I feel very strongly must remain to protect the riding public.

I would like to ask that you please consider the following alternatives when reviewing changes to the regulations for vehicle for hire transportation for transportation network companies.  These are in no particular order as I view them all as equally important.

1. FBI Fingerprint background checks for all drivers – regardless of full time or part time status.  This is just a no brainer.  No other option should be accepted.  This is the only form of background check that provides maximum assurance of safety and security for the riding public.  The small amount of money and time for this process are well worth it.  If TNC’s are so opposed to this process, you have to ask yourself – what are they trying to hide.  This is not a process that can be left up to each operator to self-regulate.  The MTC came into existence because of public demand for assurances of safety and reliability.  All vehicles for hire should be required to provide such assurances, not just some of them.  Since when is it considered “onerous” for some ride providers to provide such assurance to protect the public?

2. Drug testing upon licensure and then year round random drug testing for all drivers.  I do agree with Uber’s assessment that the drug test is just a snapshot in time.  But their assertion that the passengers provide a real time evaluation if their driver is impaired would be comical if it were not so unrealistic and dangerous.  Many people seek rides because they, the riders, are impaired by alcohol.  How can a drunk person in the backseat be held responsible for knowing if the person behind the wheel is drunk too.  The initial drug test is critical to qualify any driver to be safe for the riding public.  The year-round random testing would give riders the assurance that all drivers are clean of all controlled substances at all times.  If the CCN holder is already conducting an effective random drug testing program, then proof and results could be substituted for the random program to be administered by the MTC.

3. Full time commercial liability insurance for the protection of the driver, passengers and innocent bystanders with proof of insurance provided at annual renewal and upon random request during the remainder of the year.  We have seen story after story of TNC drivers working off the platform and as a result, there is a huge gap in insurance.  TNC’s will say that these drivers will be deactivated from the platform – but by time they find out – if they find out – it could be too late.  If full time commercial liability insurance – which is very expensive – it not required of TNC providers, it would not give riders the protection they need and would give TNC’s a dramatic unfair competitive advantage.  The fair and level playing field for all providing the same service are crucial to successful regulations and continuing to provide good viable options for our region.  The commercial liability insurance that is required of all vehicle for hire providers should never allow for periods of no coverage, or periods where the coverage amount is different depending on what the driver is doing.  Full coverage all the time!

4. Reduction in the premium sedan annual fees – When the MTC began the process of evaluating allowing UberBlack to operate in St. Louis, you made some code changes that had previously inhibited their business model.  But during this same process, the MTC more than doubled the annual permit fees for premium sedan operators.  It has often felt like the premium sedan operators have been the sacrificial lambs, so to speak, in the process.  In addition to increasing our fees, you also issued a total of 52 new black car permits without the benefit a study showing the need for more black cars in our market.  The increase in premium sedan permits is now to the point where new premium sedan operators have made a substantial investment in a vehicle but they are struggling to make a good living because of the large disparity in the supply vs. demand for this service.  This saturation bundled with the large increase in our fees will continue to put premium sedan operators at an unfair competitive advantage.    I would like to ask that you put the premium sedan fees  in line with the cab fees and eliminate the huge disparity.  Premium sedan operators are faced with extremely high operating costs such as vehicles that are 4 to 5 times the cost of a vehicle for a taxi fleet, full commercial insurance and providing employment and full benefits for our chauffeurs.  Requiring us to pay almost 5 times what a taxi operator pays for the annual permit fee is not valid by any means.

5. Vehicle inspections and markings and other vehicle for hire regulations – While making sure that a vehicle is in good working condition and has adequate markings so that potential passengers know that they are utilizing a legally licensed vehicle for hire are extremely important, we need to have a fair and level playing field for all those providing the same service.  If the MTC will decide not to require these markings for Uber or other potential TNC’s operators, then they should remove this requirement and other burdensome regulations for all vehicle for hire providers.

6. Permit limits for all vehicle for hire classes –  In allowing TNC’s to operate in St. Louis, it is important to balance new customer choice with a fair operating environment for cab drivers and companies that have significant investments and commitments to serving the St. Louis Region.  Thousands of St. Louisans and visitors rely on cab service that is available everywhere, all the time to everyone (whether or not they have a smart phone).   While TNC’s  thrive on part time drivers that can easily abandon this revenue stream on a whim, all other vehicle for hire drivers look at this as a career and profession.  If our region is going to give them any chance of continuing to make a good living, support their families, buy homes and put their kids through college and provide this service at a reasonable price, we must also make sure that there are the right number of vehicles available for the potential needs of our citizens and visitors.  I highly encourage you to be strong in increasing the number of taxi permits available for compliant taxi operators and limit the number of TNC permits to a conservative number of no more than 400.  The MTC has invested a substantial amount of money in the ground transportation study being currently conducted by Dr. Ray Mundy.  Let his study begin the conversation regarding how many taxis’ vs. TNC’s are warranted in our region.  And for the sake of protecting a TNC’s ability to make a decent wage, the MTC should look at a permit limit as a tool to protect their income making potential as well.   TNC drivers all over the country continue to be disgruntled with their inability to make a decent wage in markets where there are no limits and the roads are flooded with TNC’s.  Equally important is the need to control road congestion and pollution for our residents.  Flooding the streets with an unlimited number of TNC’s would contribute greatly to these problems.


Thank you for your time as a volunteer regulator.  I realize that the role that you play in protecting the riding public in our region is thankless and time consuming.  But your role is necessary and important so please remain diligent in your efforts.

Best Regards


Deborah L Rudawsky, CPA

Co-Owner and Chief Financial Officer

St. Louis County & Yellow Cab

Best Transportation