Correction: An earlier version of this story said Jack Evans was appointed to the Metro board by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser. Evans was appointed by the D.C. Council on the recommendation of Bowser. This version has been corrected.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans made it clear Thursday that if it were up to him to pick Metro’s next board chairman, he wouldn’t hesitate to choose: Jack Evans.
After lobbying for the post, Evans (D-Ward 2) now seems likely to get it.
Jim Corcoran, president of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, suddenly bowed out Thursday as a candidate for the post, leaving the veteran council member as the top contender to lead the transit agency’s governing board.
“I think this is a real pivotal moment in Metro’s history,” Evans said outside a meeting room at Metro headquarters after Corcoran privately withdrew from consideration. Corcoran, like Evans, joined the board early last year.
“We have safety issues, finance issues, crime issues,” Evans said, referring to Metro’s well-documented array of woes. “And I’m very excited about solving those problems. As board chairman, you have a greater ability to do that.”
The board’s eight voting members — two each representing the District, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government — are due to select a new chairman Jan. 28. Board member Mortimer L. Downey, who was elected chairman last January, is not seeking another one-year term, and Evans appears to have enough support to succeed him.
In unexpectedly removing his name from consideration, Corcoran told fellow members that he does not have enough time for the job.
Earlier this week, people familiar with the process said that Corcoran, in a bid to become chairman, appeared to have broader support than Evans. Corcoran was seen as more acceptable to all factions on the board, while Evans is allied with a group of new members who have aggressively pushed to shake up the beleaguered transit agency.
Corcoran, who joined the board in February as an appointee of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), was tentatively willing to be nominated for the chairmanship but first needed to consult with the full leadership of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which he has led for nearly six years. He decided to withdraw his name from consideration after a discussion this week with the chamber’s board.
He said that being Metro chairman would require too much of his time, given that the chamber recently expanded its mission to cover all of Northern Virginia. Until last week, its name had been the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
“We have rebranded our organization,” Corcoran said in an interview Thursday. “I must stay laser-focused on being successful with bringing that vision of the Northern Virginia chamber to our membership and our constituencies. Sometimes the timing’s just not right in life to do something.”
Corcoran’s decision opened the door for Evans, who has been a D.C. Council member since winning a special election in 1991. He was appointed to the Metro board last January by the D.C. Council on the recommendation of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) shortly after she took office. Bowser was a Metro board member before she was elected mayor.
One board member said Thursday that one or more Virginia board members were trying to find an alternative to Evans. This member, like some others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the board has not yet dealt with the chairmanship selection publicly.
“They’re trying to find someone, but it’s not going to happen,” the member said. “I don’t believe there will be another candidate.” He also said that he doubts Corcoran had enough support to gain the chairmanship, because board members representing the District have been lobbying Maryland members to support Evans.
“The votes have been pretty rock solid” for Evans, the member said.
Besides the eight voting members, the board includes eight nonvoting members — two from each of the four jurisdictions — who participate in committee meetings and debates. This includes the board’s governance committee, which will recommend a candidate for chairman to the full board later this month.
Asked whether a possible lack of support contributed to his decision to withdraw from consideration, Corcoran replied, “Zero whatsoever.” He declined to say whether he would support Evans or any other candidate for the position.
Maryland’s voting representatives on the board are lawyers Michael Goldman and Keturah D. Harley. “I feel good about Jack,” Goldman said Thursday. “If he wants to be chairman, we’d support him. . . . We’d be comfortable with Jack.”
Although Metro operates the nation’s second-busiest subway and is a critical economic engine in the Washington region, the transit agency’s past chairmen generally have not been high-profile figures. But Evans said he would change that, redefining the job by turning the top board official into the outspoken public face of Metro.
He said he would become the agency’s point person in lobbying the D.C., Virginia and Maryland governments, as well as Congress, for greater financial support.
Although the federal government gives Metro tens of millions of dollars for capital improvement projects, it does not provide money for day-to-day operating costs.
“And yet we transport probably 70 or 80 percent of the government workers,” Evans said. “So we really need to change that.”
He said: “If I were to become chairman, I would be very visible as far as being a cheerleader for Metro. And also an advocate for Metro. It’s important at this critical juncture in Metro’s history that the board, and particularly the chairman, take an enormous leadership role. And that’s what I would like to do.”