By Maria Saporta
MARTA’s Board of Directors Thursday selected Jeffrey A. Parker as its choice to be the agency’s next general manager and CEO.
Parker, who worked at MARTA as senior director of transportation operations from 2005 to 2008, currently is vice president of HNTB Corp., an infrastructure solutions firm that has worked closely with MARTA over the years.
While MARTA conducted a national search, hiring a local candidate who has worked at MARTA will help Parker get off to a quick start, said MARTA board Chairman Robbie Ashe, a partner with Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP.
“He’s not going to need a long on-boarding process,” Ashe said. “He’s well known to folks in Atlanta, particularly under the Gold Dome.”
MARTA has been searching for a new president and CEO since its former leader, Keith Parker, left the transit agency in October to become the president and CEO of Goodwill of North Georgia.
Keith Parker had served as MARTA’s general manager for nearly five years. During his leadership, Parker received accolades for helping change the regional perception of the transit agency and for helping stabilize MARTA’s budget by Improving its financial reserves.
Jeffrey Parker, no relation, has been a vice president of HNTB since 2011 and was named as the leader of the Atlanta office in 2013. Before joining HNTB, Parker served as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation for nearly three years.
Prior to joining the Connecticut DOT, he was director of subway operations and rail engineering for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which runs Boston’s subway, commuter rail and bus systems.
MARTA board member Fred Daniels, who chaired of search committee, said 18 people applied for the post, and the committee interviewed 11 candidates.
Parker emerged as the sole finalist to become MARTA’s new chief. Ashe said that by law, the agency must now wait 14 days before making a final decision, likely at a special called board meeting, and approving a contract.
Ashe said Parker has agreed to divest any financial interest in HNTB as a condition of joining MARTA.
MARTA’s ethics policy requires the agency “make sure a decision-maker cannot benefit from a decision that they make,” Ashe said.
Ashe said he will look to the new Parker to pick up where his predecessor left off. “We are looking for someone who will continue the fiscal discipline,” Ashe said.
Ashe added Parker’s years of experience in transit will come in handy given MARTA’s upcoming agenda.
“We now have significant expansion projects on our plate,” he said.
MARTA is reviewing its options for high capacity transit in Clayton County. It also needs to oversee the transit investment of $2.5 billion in new sales tax revenues that was approved by city of Atlanta residents in a November 2016 referendum.
“One of the things that we found most attractive about Jeff was his experience in transit delivery,” Ashe said.
Ashe said MARTA’s goal is to get Parker on board by the end of this month.
Daniels said that Keith Parker did a great job as MARTA’s general manager.
“Keith is a unique individual,” said Daniels, who is an executive vice president for Citizens Trust Bank.
“We were not looking necessarily for someone with the exact same qualities. Jeff has great relationships that will continue to build on the legacy that Keith built.”
Given regional transit bills now before the General Assembly, MARTA’s future role in the region could change.
“We are at a crossroads,” said Daniels. “We were looking for someone who has a proven track record of execution. We believe that [Jeff Parker’s] relationships here locally and nationally are strong from both the business and political side.”
Dave Williams, government reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle, contributed to this report.