Adler succeeds Conley as CAMPO chair
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 by Ryan Thornton
In accordance with its bylaws, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization unanimously approved Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s succession to chair of the Transportation Policy Board at the board’s meeting Monday evening.
The previous chair, Will Conley, announced his plan to resign at the board’s last meeting on Jan. 14.
The board also approved a motion by Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt nominating Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long to the position of vice chair, previously held by Adler.
Conley served as board chair and representative of Hays County from 2012-2017 when he stepped down from his position as commissioner in order to run for Hays County judge. Following that action, the CAMPO board made a controversial provision allowing Conley to serve two more years as chair and non-voting representative of the region, which continued through this year despite the fact he ultimately lost his election.
Adler will fill the role as replacement until the original end of Conley’s term as chair in January 2020. At that time, the board will nominate and vote on a chair to serve a full term.
CAMPO legal counsel Tim Tuggey said that the board had previously discussed amending the bylaws so that replacements would be chosen by vote instead of by automatic succession. Although that amendment was never adopted, Tuggey suggested the board vote on Adler’s succession to allow for potential objections to the process.
After Eckhardt’s motion, Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea made a motion to nominate Corbin Van Arsdale, the mayor of Cedar Park, for vice chair, but the motion died before coming up for a vote.
Shea has been the most vocal critic of Conley’s leadership, under which the board has emphasized the needs of rural counties and failed to engage innovative transportation solutions such as autonomous vehicles and regional rail. Shea has previously expressed hope that Adler will serve as the board’s chair and place Austin and Travis County again at the center of the policy board’s transportation strategy.
As transportation advocate Roger Baker noted during public comment prior to the vote, Adler is known as an “urban environmentalist” and a “strong supporter of transit.” Baker said that under Adler’s leadership, the region should now “expect to see a green future reflected in CAMPO’s new 2045 long-range plan.”
Despite their political differences, Adler praised Conley’s work as chair. “What you have done, that I’m not sure anybody else could have done, is move us forward as a region, as this board is supposed to do. Regardless of who gets elected as chair, you are a huge loss.”
Before leaving the meeting, Conley said serving CAMPO has been an honor and a highlight of his career. “I think our organization is in a better place than which we found it and I’m very proud of the work we have done collectively.”
Lest there be any doubt that the board’s new leadership was a foregone conclusion, Adler said he and Long had met several times in the previous weeks to discuss their plans for CAMPO moving forward. Specifically, Adler said he hopes to work with Long to continue Conley’s work in regionalizing the board’s approach to transportation.
This article has been corrected to clarify the timeline of Conley’s role as CAMPO chair. Photo by LBJ Library made available through the public domain.
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