Metro Seeks New Manager Candidates
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Metro's governing board is restarting its search for a permanent chief a day after interim general manager Dan Tangherlini withdrew his name from consideration and announced plans to join the administration of D.C. mayoral candidate Adrian M. Fenty, who is heavily favored to win in November.
The board yesterday scrapped interviews with Tangherlini and other candidates scheduled for this week, board Chairwoman Gladys Mack said. "With this development, there may be applicants who had not applied because Dan was the front-runner," she said. "Now that he's no longer in the picture, we might be interested in other people."
Mack said she expects to have a new list of candidates "within weeks."
The move returns Metro directors to where they were in January, when former chief executive Richard A. White was forced out and Tangherlini was inserted as his temporary replacement. The prolonged transition creates a leadership vacuum at a crucial time for the nation's second-busiest subway and fifth-busiest bus system. With record ridership, the system is straining to keep up with demand. The agency is also trying to persuade local governments to provide a dedicated source of federal and local funding to keep trains, tracks, stations and buses in good repair.
Some board members, riders and area leaders blamed the board's jurisdictional politics for letting their top candidate slip away and leaving Metro in the lurch. Board members from Maryland and the District sought to appoint Tangherlini to the job in June but were rebuffed by their Virginia colleagues. Virginia members argued that Metro should conduct a national search and worried that Tangherlini was not attuned to Virginia issues.
"This is a very critical time," said Bob Grow, government relations director at the Greater Washington Board of Trade. "They need to raise funds to keep the wheels on it, and they need someone at the helm." The board, he said, "had a bird in the hand, and why not just move on that? Why delay when you had something good?"
Grow said Tangherlini was the type of manager that Metro needed, someone who was able to "establish credibility with the line workers as well as board and upper management and the customer."
"We should have made Dan general manager in June, period," said board member Charles Deegan, who represents Maryland.
Had that offer been extended, Tangherlini said, he would have stayed at Metro.
Mack said Tangherlini's decision took her by surprise. "I didn't think that by the time we finished the search process . . . that he'd be gone. I feel very bad about it."
In a statement, she said Tangherlini had "helped to restore the public's faith and confidence in the system." Tangherlini improved Metro's operations, listened to employees and riders, and "would have made an outstanding general manager."
D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is also on the Metro board and wanted to give the job to Tangherlini, said the transit authority must now "think about a transition from the transition. This never should have been an issue."