An RTD A Line train.

An RTD A Line train.

For the first time in its history, the Regional Transportation District is seeking community input in its selection of a new interim leader.

RTD’s board of directors is considering five finalists — two internal and three external candidates — to replace outgoing general manager and CEO Dave Genova, who steps down Jan. 20. The transit agency is encouraging public feedback until 5 p.m. on Jan. 23.

 “We have heard very loud and clear that the community feels like RTD doesn’t communicate with them,” said Angie Rivera-Malpiede, the newly elected chairwoman of the agency’s board of directors. “This is their transit system... We need to show the community that we want to do things differently and want to make sure their voices are at the table."

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As of noon Thursday, the chairwoman said, at least 130 responses had been anonymously submitted through an online survey. The board also is soliciting feedback by email and through individual RTD directors.

Of the five finalists, only one — Michael Ford, RTD’s chief operations officer — explicitly expressed “sincere interest” in being considered for the permanent role.

“I am confident that I will bring a reassuring, calming and stabilizing effect to the organization,” he wrote in his cover letter. Ford joined the agency in 2018 and brings three decades of public and private transit experience.

Another candidate wrote in his cover letter that, although he only would serve in the interim, he would help find the transit agency a chief for the long term.

“I have hired hundreds of transit management personnel. I can help the board select the right search firm or process, and then keep that effort on schedule,” Paul Ballard, former president and CEO of Trinity Metro in Fort Worth, Texas, wrote in his cover letter. “I am not a candidate for the permanent GM/CEO position and would be an impartial coordinator of the process on behalf of the board.”

Ballard did not mention his salary expectations in his cover letter, as was required in the application, but disclosed he was paid $303,000 in 2019. He also noted he earned $50,000 the past two years in incentive payments for “meeting operational construction and financial goals.”

Some candidates proposed in their cover letters new ideas for the agency to pilot.

Amy Ford, director of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s Mobility on Demand Alliance, requested a salary of $225,000 but requested, with permission, that the remaining budgeted salary for the CEO position be allocated to a special fund that awarded in $1,000 increments up to 75 drivers, mechanics and line staff deemed to be top performers by their peers.

“The staff have borne much of the pressure of RTD’s challenges, and this would be an opportunity to demonstrate that they are valued, and that leadership sees their focus and dedication to RTD’s mission,” she wrote in her application.

Other finalists pointed to their experience.

“My 16-year tenure in government leadership in the Denver metro region coupled with over two decades of experience as a registered civil engineer leaves me uniquely qualified to lead RTD through this period of sustained challenges and tremendous opportunities,” wrote Jacqueline Millet, mayor of the City of Lone Tree, in her cover letter.

Michael Meader wrote that public transit flows in his “blood and heart.” As RTD’s chief safety and security officer, he brings 30 years of management experience to the agency. He wrote in his cover letter that his salary expectations are at least $260,000.

Whoever steps into the top spot, which could be permanently filled sometime between four and 14 months from now, will face the crossroads at which RTD stands.

The transit agency is in the middle of a two-year process, “Reimagine RTD,” an effort intended to “map the mobility of the future” and conceptualize a plan to address long-term transit needs with limited resources.  

This, and the numerous challenges it faces, from staff shortages and temporary service cuts to low ridership and budget slashes.

Rivera-Malpiede acknowledges the agency’s hardships ahead, but remains hopeful.

“There are so many opportunities” to rise, she said.

RTD’s board of directors are completing candidates’ reference calls and background checks this week. On Jan. 28, the board will meet in executive session to move forward with its decision-making process before the regularly scheduled board meeting. If a conclusion isn’t reached before the public meeting, executive session will resume afterward.

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