MARTA’s next CEO now heads San Antonio’s transit system, earned high praise from board members there

By Maria Saporta and David Pendered

The next CEO of MARTA will be a seasoned public administrator who now serves as chief of San Antonio’s transit system.

Keith Parker

Keith Parker comes with high praise from members of the board that oversees the Texas system named Via Metropolitan Transit. Parker was chosen by a unanimous vote over Stephen Bland, who leads the transit system in Pittsburgh.

In choosing Parker, MARTA’s board of directors rejected an internal candidate who had been favored by state Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven). Jacobs chairs the legislative committee that oversees MARTA and said last month that MARTA’s relationship with lawmakers would benefit if an internal candidate were selected to succeed outgoing CEO Beverly Scott.

According to a Sept. 10 report in ajc.com, Jacobs stated:

“The decision the MARTA Board makes … may well determine in the very near term the direction of its relationship with the General Assembly. An internal candidate who is committed to doing the work that needs to be done to get MARTA’s fiscal ship righted could go a long way to shoring up and bolstering the relationship with the General Assembly.”

Parker was selected by a unanimous vote of 9-0, with one abstention – board member Wendy Butler. Butler served as Jacobs’ campaign manager in his 2010 bid for reelection to the state House, according to her vita on linkedin.com.

Butler also has served a year on the board that oversees the State Road and Tollway Authority, ending her service in January 2011 as an appointee of the House Speaker. Butler represents DeKalb County on MARTA’s board. She serves on the board of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

Parker joined the VIA Metropolitan Transit system in 2009 after having served with the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) — an organization he joined in 2000 as chief operating officer.From 2004 to 2007, Parker became assistant city manager for the City of Charlotte. He was then named as the CEO of CATS in 2007, a position he held for about two years. Parker also was CEO of the Clark County Transit Authority in Vancouver, Washington.

Here are some observations about Parker that appeared in mysanantonio.com following the announcement that Parker was a finalist for the MARTA job:

“Obviously, we would hate to see Mr. Parker go,” [board member] Mary Briseño said. “He’s done a tremendous job for us and left us in a better place then we were before. But I don’t want to be premature; hopefully, maybe he’ll see things differently” and not leave San Antonio.

“In the past three years he’s been remarkable, from getting grants to establishing the first nontraditional bus service in San Antonio to laying the groundwork for street cars,” [said board member Gerald Lee]. “That will all be the legacy of Keith Parker.”

This is the advisory about Parker’s selection that MARTA released Thursday evening:

MARTA Board Selects General Manager/CEO

Keith T. Parker of San Antonio Tapped to Lead Agency

The MARTA Board of Directors today voted to select Keith T. Parker as MARTA’s next General Manager and Chief Executive Officer.

Mr. Parker has served as VIA’s President/CEO since July 2009.  He oversees all aspects of the San Antonio region’s primary transit system, which provides bus, streetcar and paratransit service daily for nearly 150,000 riders. Prior to San Antonio, Parker served as CEO for the Charlotte Area Transit System, or CATS. Parker joined CATS in 2000 as Chief Operating Officer where he was responsible for bus and paratransit operations and helped develop light-rail plans for the transit system.

Mr. Parker also served as the Assistant City Manager for the City of Charlotte from 2004 through 2007 where his portfolio included the police and fire departments, as well as Charlotte/Douglas Airport. Prior to his experience in North Carolina, Parker was the CEO for the Clark County Transit Authority in Vancouver, Washington and Deputy Director of the transit agency in Richmond, Virginia. Parker has a bachelor degree in political science, a master degree in urban and regional planning, and master of business administration. He is a certified urban planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Mr. Parker was selected after a nationwide search conducted by the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. Mr. Parker was one of two finalists considered by the Board who had the requisite background, expertise and leadership skills to run MARTA, the nation’s 9th largest transit system. Dr. Beverly A. Scott, who has been MARTA’s GM/CEO since 2007, informed the Board last year that she would not seek to renew her five-year contract.

“We strongly believe that Keith Parker is the best choice for MARTA,” said Frederick L. Daniels, Jr. Chairman of the MARTA Board immediately after the vote. “We are extremely proud of the work we have done to this point, and we are very confident that we have picked the right man, for the right job at the right time.”

A formal letter advising him of the Board’s decision will be sent to Mr. Parker, and the specific terms of his contract will be negotiated.

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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  1. [...] having such a good relationship with Republicans is the MARTA Board itself, who rejected the advice of State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-City of Brookhaven), Chairs of the legislature’s MARTA Oversight Committee. In choosing [...]