Metro Panel Set to Begin National Search for Chief

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 21, 2006

Metro's board of directors voted yesterday to launch a national search for a general manager to head the regional transit agency even as some members said the pursuit could lead them back to Dan Tangherlini, the interim director since February.

Board Chairman Gladys Mack said members chose to cast a wide net to ensure that Metro, the country's second-busiest subway and fifth-busiest bus system, is led by the most qualified chief executive. Mack, who represents the District, said that the board hopes to pick a general manager in 90 days or fewer and that Tangherlini has done an "excellent job" and would make an "excellent candidate."

Maryland and District members have pressed to appoint Tangherlini permanently. But Virginia officials have balked because they are concerned that Tangherlini's chief political backing is from the District and Maryland, said Gerald E. Connolly (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which appoints Virginia's representatives to the Metro board.

For the past several weeks, jurisdictional politics have deadlocked the board, which is made up of six voting members and six alternates. Maryland, the District and Virginia appoint two voting and two alternate members each.

At a news conference Wednesday announcing increased service on Metro's Red Line, Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan expressed some frustration at the selection process, saying, "We'd like to knock the 'interim' off as soon as possible."

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents the District on the Metro board, said of Tangherlini, "He's been superb."

Arlington County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman (D), who represents Virginia, said the Metro panel needed to make good on its promise this year to initiate a search and find the best candidate. "We're encouraging the interim general manager to apply as part of that process."

Virginia officials say their stance on Tangherlini, who was the District's transportation director, isn't personal.

"Virginia has no beef against Dan Tangherlini at all," Connolly said. "We just don't know him."

Connolly asked, "Can somebody so long associated with the District, can he rise above a D.C.-centric perspective and be the region's general manager?"

After the board forced then-General Manager Richard A. White to resign in January, Tangherlini was named interim general manager for a year. In addition to heading the D.C. transportation department, Tangherlini, 38, was an alternate board member representing the District.

Virginia's leaders are concerned about protecting plans to build a $4 billion Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport. Whoever becomes Metro's general manager needs to be "an enthusiastic cheerleader for the project," help with technical assistance and winning needed federal approvals, and encourage business support, Connolly said. "Then they'll find Virginia quite supportive."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company