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Search begins for ‘visionary’ San Francisco transit leader

The search is on to find who will lead San Francisco’s transportation agency as the agency faces a whole slew of problems that include subpar Muni service.

Three members of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors met on Tuesday as a search committee to iron out the details to begin the search of replacing Ed Reiskin, the current of director of transportation, who announced he will leave the SFMTA when his contract expires in August.

Mayor London Breed had ordered the SFMTA to begin a nationwide search for a new director of transportation after what has been a tough year for the transit agency, including slow Muni service last summer, an operator shortage, and door problems on the new Muni light rail vehicles.

As members of the search committee, Eaken, Torres and Heminger will interview candidates and make a recommendation to full the SFMTA board. The decision is up to the board on who will replace Reiskin.

Eaken said they hope to ideally have someone begin on Nov. 1, which means an acting director of transportation could be appointed internally or hired.

This was the case when Nathaniel Ford left, the former head of the SFMTA and who Reiskin had replaced.

The SFMTA Board of Directors at the time in 2011 had yet to decide on Ford’s replacement after his departure and placed former SFMTA Director of Administration Debra Johnson in the acting role.

The SFMTA will not be the only transit agency putting out a call for candidates. BART is also seeking a new leader as General Manager Grace Crunican will retire next month.  

Heminger said the SFMTA might want to look at compensation for housing in order to entice candidates to apply for the position, especially if a candidate lives out of state.

He tasked the City Attorney’s Office to see if the transit agency could offer some expenses for housing.

The City’s Department of Human Resources and the SFMTA’s human resources department are helping the SFMTA in creating a scope of work for the outside firm that will help gather potential candidates, finalize the description for the job, and conduct public outreach.

Eaken said she wanted to see a higher emphasis placed on “excellent management experience” because of the complexity of the transit agency:

“The person needs to be a visionary, needs to be a leader, needs to be able to help San Francisco’s transportation system evolve into the future.”

She added that Breed’s letter to the SFMTA be reviewed again to make sure the mayor’s input is part of the process.

The next committee meeting is next month and is open to the public, but a definite date has not been scheduled yet.

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