Capital Metro’s board of directors is spending the next few days discussing the right candidate to hire for the agency’s president and CEO position.
A public forum held Jan. 8 allowed residents to hear from each of the four candidates in the running for the job. The board met Tuesday morning and plans to meet again Friday morning to further discuss and potentially name the new leader. The board likely will vote on making an official offer at its regular board meeting Jan. 29. Residents may still submit comments to firstname.lastname@example.org until 8 a.m. Friday.
“Things that we’re looking for collectively is the ability to provide leadership to the region, an ability to help our organization deal with the financial challenges we see in the horizon and an ability to implement innovations as we see in the coming as being really important in terms of opportunities to implement new kinds of services,” Capital Metro board Chairman Wade Cooper previously told Community Impact Newspaper.
During Monday night’s forum, each candidate was given about 20 minutes to pitch himself or herself and answer questions.
The four candidates are:
- Randy Clarke, vice president of operations and member services for the American Public Transportation Association;
- Erika Mazza, deputy general manager of the Northern Arizona International Public Transportation Authority;
- Darrell Mobley, director of the Department of Public Works & Transportation for Prince George’s County in Maryland; and
- Raymond Suarez, chief operating officer of Denton County Transportation Authority.
Here are four things to know about the candidates:
1. All candidates say they would ride Austin’s transit.
Most currently ride transit for their existing jobs and used their time in Austin to explore the city’s bus and rail system.
Clarke said he spent a few hours riding buses from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to The Arboretum in Northwest Austin. He said it’s important for customers to see the transit leader riding the system.
“Getting out into the community and listening to the public and what their needs are is vitally important for the president/CEO,” Suarez said. “I always made that a cornerstone of how I do business.”
2. The candidates see Austin’s growth as a challenge that can be tackled.
Suarez said the challenge is not only to grow transit in Austin but also the surrounding region and do it in an innovative way that would change the way people move throughout the region.
Clarke said the vision of transit’s future must come together with other issues, such as economic opportunity, social equality, zoning and land use.
“I feel that with the way the region has been growing—and it has been growing out, not necessarily in—and that really puts a strain on the ability for Cap Metro and the surrounding rural transportation authority to be able to provide quality transit,” Mazza said.
Mobley said working with neighboring jurisdictions is key to finding opportunities to grow the system.
“One of the things we need to try to do is try to utilize transit more,” he said. “As an engineer I think it’s very difficult to try to build our way out of traffic congestion. We need to focus on other modes of transportation, such as transit, in order to get some of the rider off the road.”
3. Implementing regional plans such as Project Connect would require working with area partners.
Mazza said she wants to make sure the Project Connect implementation is a collaborative process and part of other initiatives that are also moving forward.
“Innovation is really a huge part of how I look at financing mechanisms, so hopefully I can come to the table with a lot of ideas. They might not all be ideas that will work in Texas,” she said.
Mobley said to expand any service, it’s vital to ensure all parties are involved in the process and have buy in to the plan.
4. Each candidate has a different background.
Although each candidate currently oversees or previously oversaw some aspect of transportation, each also brings a different background to the table.
Clarke has experience working at the federal level with insight into Congressional actions. Mazza has experience with in housing, finance and economic development.
Mobley has degrees in civil engineering and construction management and works in public works. Suarez worked in Silicon Valley for 10 years with large global technology firms. He is also the only Texan in the group.