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Capital Metro officially anoints new executive head

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s next CEO and president, Randy Clarke, will take the transit agency’s reins on March 7.

On Monday, Capital Metro’s board of directors unanimously approved the terms of Clarke’s five-year contract, a document Clarke was on hand to personally sign.

“What really intrigues me about this position is Austin itself. This amazing spirit of innovation that happens in Austin, but also a deep sense of community, and knowing and looking after each other,” Clarke said during a short press conference after the meeting adjourned. “The future is bright. Austin is growing, both economically and population-wise. Big solutions are going to be probably needed to work together on the mobility challenge.”

Clarke thanked the board for its vote and noted that he is “honored” to inherit the job from Linda Watson, who retired as Capital Metro’s CEO and president at the end of 2017 after having served since 2010.

Clarke, who is currently the vice president of operations and member services with the Washington, D.C.-based American Public Transportation Association, has prior transit agency experience with Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. He will inherit from Watson an agency, like many others across the country, struggling against eroding ridership.

On Monday, Clarke suggested that he won’t sweat individual trip counts.

“Connecting someone to education, health care or the potential of a job is to me much more valuable of a metric,” he explained.

As for the ongoing Project Connect process that is working to identify potential high-capacity transit investments, possibly including light rail or an expansion of the agency’s existing commuter-centric MetroRail service, Clarke said, “It’s not the CEO that’s decided to expand the rail system or build new rail; it’s the community. And I look at this opportunity as a way to help facilitate that conversation in the community.”

The term of Clarke’s contract begins on March 7 and runs through March 6, 2023. His base salary in the first year is $283,000, though that rate is eligible for annual increases based on performance evaluations as well a 10 percent performance bonus. In addition to 25 paid vacation days each year and access to the agency’s standard health insurance plan, the contract also allows for $25,000 in annual deferred compensation.

City Council Member Delia Garza made the motion to approve Clarke’s employment agreement, a gesture made notable by her decision in December to abstain from advancing him to the position as the sole finalist for the job. Travis County Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion seconded Garza’s motion before the full board voted in lockstep to approve the contract.

The contract wasn’t the only thing Clarke had hoped to sign on Monday. He told reporters that he and his wife, Kimberley Sweeney (who was also present at the meeting), were planning to ink a lease agreement in downtown Austin, a location that would allow him to more easily keep to his pledge to regularly use Capital Metro’s services.

When asked when he planned to make the move from the nation’s capital to the state capital, the Canadian-born Clarke said he hoped to be an official Austin resident as early as March 2, or Texas Independence Day.

“To get nice and situated before South by Southwest, that’s the goal,” he said.

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