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Capital Metro reveals final four in its CEO search

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

The path to replace outgoing Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority President and CEO Linda Watson will trace through a town hall meeting in early 2018.

On Wednesday, the transit agency revealed the names of the four candidates still in the running for the position. It also announced a community confab scheduled for Jan. 8 at which the finalists will face the public for the first time.

Capital Metro has been working with executive search firm Krauthamer & Associates to find a replacement for Watson since she announced her retirement back in July. The board privately interviewed a short list of candidates earlier this month before whittling the pool down to the final four.

Randy Clarke is the vice president of operations and member services at the American Public Transportation Association. He has held prior positions with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston.

Erika Mazza is currently deputy general manager of the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority in Flagstaff.

Darrell Mobley is the director of the Department of Public Works and Transportation in Prince George’s County, Maryland, part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Mobley has also served as deputy transportation secretary for the state of Maryland.

Raymond Suarez is chief operating officer of the Denton County Transportation Authority, a job he took in 2014 after serving as the chief administrative officer of the Trinity Railway Express, a commuter rail line that operates between Dallas and Fort Worth.

The Capital Metro Board of Directors will meet the day after the town hall for a special called meeting to select its top candidate. At their first regular meeting of the year on Jan. 29, the members will vote on whether to approve the contract for the new executive head.

In the interim, deputy CEO and chief operating officer Elaine Timbes will serve as the acting president. The board voted 6-0 to make her temporary appointment effective on Dec. 31. City Council Member Pio Renteria and Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion were not present for that vote.

Watson took over the agency in 2010 shortly after the Texas Legislature forced an overhaul of the agency’s board due to emptied-out financial reserves. On Monday, Chair Wade Cooper commended Watson for righting the agency’s course and leaving it in better condition than when she found it.

Though Capital Metro’s financial condition is on steady footing, the new CEO will inherit a list of challenges, including foundering ridership, slowing sales tax revenue, and the difficult tasks of implementing a bus network realignment and shepherding Project Connect to its final goal of successful high-capacity transit investments.

The ever-affable Cooper briefly alluded to the work to be done.

“There’s a time of great change coming a change in leadership, change in the environment, a change in everything,” he said. “But I think we’re on solid footing.”

Before wrapping up Monday’s meeting, Watson addressed the small audience in the boardroom and expressed her gratitude to Capital Metro’s employees. Looking back on her tenure, she reflected on a report that Timbes brought to her office on Watson’s very first morning on the job.

“They had found a cow tongue with nails in it in a jar of liquid that was left at one of our rail stations. That was a little unusual, I thought,” Watson said. “Any day you start off and you’re talking to the TSA and Homeland Security, you know it’s probably going to be an interesting job.”

The Jan. 8 public meeting will be held at the Austin Independent School District’s Performing Arts Center at 1500 Barbara Jordan Blvd.

Photo by WhisperToMe, Public Domain.

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