Published: Nov 07, 2013 1:42 PM EST

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The man who drives LeeTran "The Happy Bus" has been named the best operator in the State of Florida.

Anthony "Tony" Varcalli was honored as Operator of the Year by the Florida Public Transportation Association at its annual conference last week. In his 46 years as a professional driver, 18 with LeeTran and 28 as a tractor-trailer driver in Michigan, he has logged more than 5.2 million miles, and never wanted to do anything else.

 “I’ve loved every minute of it,” said Varcalli. “Driving the tractor-trailer was fun when I was young, but driving the bus is perfect for me. I love talking to the people, having fun.”

It’s that attitude that led his passengers to dub whatever bus he’s driving, “The Happy Bus.”

“Tony has the unique ability to diffuse customer service issues, even between passengers,” wrote LeeTran Deputy Director Paul Goyette in his nomination letter. “He is a positive spirit.”

Varcalli will retire in August 2014. He plans to move to Matlacha to indulge his love of fishing and enjoy the Florida sunshine.