Capital Metro board stresses need for public input in president/CEO search process

Capital Metro's new president and CEO will need to help the agency planning for high-capacity transit as envisioned in Project Connect.

Capital Metro's new president and CEO will need to help the agency planning for high-capacity transit as envisioned in Project Connect.

Having the public be involved in the process of hiring a new leader for Austin’s transit agency, Capital Metro, will be key for the agency’s board members.

On July 31, President and CEO Linda Watson announced she is retiring at the end of 2017 after serving as the agency’s head for seven years.

Capital Metro’s board of directors met Wednesday afternoon to start the discussion of what the search process would look like as well as to weigh in on qualities they are seeking in an ideal candidate.

“[We need to have] enough public buy-in that the community will say this is our person,” board Chairman Wade Cooper said.

The agency is considering hosting a public hearing on the search process to occur before the Sept. 25 board meeting. Additional board discussion also could occur in September.

The recruitment process


Several board members, including Ann Kitchen and Delia Garza, who also sit on Austin City Council, said the search process must include public input.

Garza said she would like to have at least two public meetings. The first would be a listening session to gathering input from the public on what they want from a new leader, and the second would be to discuss and vote on a candidate profile.

In February, board members approved the agency’s Connections 2025 service plan, and the agency is also working on the Project Connect regional transit plan.

“Implementing Connections 2025 and figuring out what we’re going to do with high-capacity rail for Project Connect in a way this community buys into and reflects what this community wants is a big challenge,” Kitchen said. “We need someone who is dynamic and work with the community and work with us to take us to the next level and can do it in a visionary way.”

Board member Terry Mitchell said the agency’s mission has changed over the last few years, and Capital Metro needs a leader to help figure out how to serve residents who have been dispersed from the central core.

“We need to figure out how to move the mass of our citizenry around,” he said.

Beverly Silas, who was a board member and sat on the search committee that hired Watson, said the previous search process involved the community getting to ask questions of the final two candidates.

“One of the biggest challenges we will have is which of the qualifying people are the best fit for Austin,” she said.

The search firm


In March, Capital Metro entered into a contract with Krauthamer & Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based search firm that has been around for 45 years.

“When we procured those services they included executive positions from the CEO down to vice president and even director-level positions should those services be needed,” said Donna Simmons, Capital Metro’s vice president of administration. “We do that occasionally in the event it is needed.”

Gregg Moser, one of four partners with Krauthamer, said he has led searches for heads of other transit agencies, including in Pittsburgh, New York City, Orlando, Tampa, Denver and Oakland.

“We’ve done work for some of the biggest agencies in the nation and some of the smallest,” he said.

On average, Moser said it takes about 120 days to find the right candidate. His role will include gathering input from the board on the type of candidate they want, who will be involved in the process and assisting with the transition.

“What is important to Capital Metro today and where do you see Capital Metro over the 5-10 years?” he said. “What are the skills you need to get the agency to where it needs to be in 5-10 years? … Based on that we can guide and formulate a candidate profile that will guide where we take this recruitment.”


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