Metro's New Winning Personality

By John Kelly
Thursday, February 2, 2006

Quick, let's do some word association. What's the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word "Tangherlini"?

"Tangy." Yes, good.

"Spicy." Okay.

"Exciting and new." Of course!

Now, how about your reaction to "White"?

"Um, not tangy. Not spicy. Not exciting and new."

Well, that was my reaction, anyway, on hearing that District transportation chief Dan Tangherlini would be taking over the reins at Metro after former chief Richard White was booted.

I've never spoken with White, but I have spoken with Tangherlini. I like him. He has a pulse and he has a personality. Not to mention a beard.

Dan and I have had some wonderful conversations about potholes. And when I talked to him last year about Bike to Work Day, he allowed that he had participated in it himself, riding in the pouring rain from his house on Capitol Hill.

There was a meeting on air-quality issues that morning. "My plan was to . . . walk in in my biking garb and shame everyone," Dan said. He was disappointed that he was so wet he had to go to his office and change.

I don't know what happens to bureaucrats who have a pulse and a personality and who occasionally show them to journalists. Perhaps they get ground down.

And it won't be easy for Dan. He's going from leading a 600-person outfit to piloting an organization of 10,000. Metro's middle management is supposedly like a layer of calcified sludge: immovable and impenetrable.

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