By Maria Saporta
Update: MARTA’s board of directors announced its two finalists this afternoon. The press release is at the bottom of this story.
Any day now, MARTA is expected to publicly announce its two finalists for general manager. Beverly Scott, who has been general manager for the past five years, is leaving at the end of the year.
The two finalists are thought to be: Keith Parker, president and CEO of VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio; and Stephen Bland, CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh.
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.
Bland became CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny County in 2006 overseeing the system’s bus, light rail and para-transit service.
Before moving to Pittsburgh, Bland was executive director of the Capital District Transportation Authority in Albany, N.Y. He also is a past chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association and a past president of the New York Public Transit Association.
Interestingly enough, Dwight Ferrell, MARTA’s current deputy general manager and chief operating officer as well as the only internal candidate, apparently did not make the final cut.
Ferrell has actually has had two stints at MARTA. He returned to the transit agency in 2008 after having been in Atlanta from 1999 to 2001.
He was executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin Texas. He also had various executive positions with the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART).
One odd development was when Ferrell was endorsed about a week ago by state Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb), chairman of legislature’s MARTA Oversight Committee (MARTOC).
Jacobs told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was not sure MARTA had time for an external candidate’s learning curve.
“It’s my understanding that MARTA has a very good internal candidate,” Jacobs said in the AJC interview. “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.”
Jacobs, however, was not on the MARTA search committee, so he did not have the opportunity to interview the four finalists.
The state also has virtually no financial stake in MARTA, which is supported by a one-percent sales tax that has been collected in the City of Atlanta, Fulton County and DeKalb County for the past 40 years. In fact, MARTA is the largest transit system in the United States to receive no financial operating support from its state government.
MARTA’s new general manager will have to figure out how to build a relationship with the rest of the Atlanta region and the state.
One lingering issue has been what kind of governance structure should oversee transit throughout the region. Although MARTA is by far the biggest public transit system in the state, the Atlanta region also has bus transit systems in Cobb County and Gwinnett County, and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority has its Xpress buses that serve the outer reaches of the region.
The question is whether there should be one transit authority that oversees all of the region’s transit systems, and whether it will be locally controlled or whether the state will try to step in as the controlling body — with no signs yet that it would become a financial partner.
After the two finalists have been announced, it is expected that MARTA’s board will make its final choice about two weeks later.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 14, 2012
MARTA Board Announces Finalists for General Manager/CEO;
Candidate Information Released Online
The MARTA Board of Directors has named two highly qualified transit executives as finalists who are being considered to serve as MARTA’s next General Manager and Chief Executive Officer.
The candidates are Stephen G. Bland, CEO of the Allegheny County Port Authority in Pittsburgh, PA and Keith T. Parker, President/CEO for VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, TX.
Mr. Bland has held his present post since June 2006. He oversees all aspects of the Pittsburgh region’s primary transit system, which provides bus, light rail and paratransit service daily to nearly 230,000 riders. His career in public transportation spans more than 20 years and he previously worked as executive director of the Capital District Transportation Authority in Albany, N.Y.
Mr. Bland has been on numerous local, state and national transit boards. He is a past chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association and a past president of the New York Public Transit Association. Bland has a Bachelor of Science degree and a master of public affairs degree.
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 masters of business administration. He is a certified urban planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).
Both candidates emerged as finalists after a nationwide search conducted by the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. They were among the top candidates interviewed who possessed 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 contract.
“This has been very difficult and exhaustive because there were so many truly excellent candidates for us to choose from,” said Barbara Babbit-Kaufman who chaired the Board’s ad hoc selection committee. “We’re extremely confident that the process has been sound and that we’ve identified the very best candidates for the job. We would be very fortunate to have either one of them as MARTA’s General Manager.”
A Board meeting will be scheduled to select the best qualified candidate in sufficient time to comply with the Georgia Open Records Act which requires at least a 14-day public notice period. In the interest of transparency, records pertinent to the selection of the finalists will be made available today at www.itsmarta.com.