Walker Steps Down as Cap Metro Board Chair

After 11 years, says time for "someone else" to take on "exciting challenges"

Press release from Capital Metro:

Lee Walker Announces Retirement from Capital Metro Board of Directors

March 31, 2008
Austin, Texas – Today Capital Metro Board Chairman Lee Walker announced his retirement effective May 31.

Walker was appointed to the board by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) in 1997. Chairman Walker submitted the following letter to Sen. Kirk Watson, CAMPO Board Chairman:

Dear Senator Watson:
Thank you for the opportunity and privilege to serve as chairman of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors for more than 10 years.

When I became chair in 1997, the authority was in great turmoil, facing indictments, and on the edge of imploding. Many in the community openly questioned Capital Metro's value to Central Texas and its trustworthiness as a public service organization. The debate frequently fell back to whether Central Texas would provide public transit, and whether the agency should exist at all.

Since then, my colleagues and I have worked to create an agency that provides a critical service to our community and to do so in an accountable and transparent manner. I believe we have shifted the debate that is no longer whether to offer transit, but how: what mix of modes to use, what role to play in the system, where to serve more people.

Furthermore I see a growing understanding that transit is about land use and how we shape a different future from business as usual. I’m grateful to the many citizen leaders including the Alliance for Public Transportation, Envision Central Texas, the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Access Advisory Committee, the Customer Service Advisory Committee and other neighborhood groups for their vigorous participation in these important and complex discussions.

In addition to improving Cap Metro services, we have set an ethical standard for our business operations that permeates every corner of the agency, from our procurements to our budgets. I hope my service has helped bring stability to the organization and integrity to its processes.

I want to thank my fellow board members, especially those who served with me from the beginning: Commissioner Margaret Gomez and Mayor Pro Tem John Trevino for all we have accomplished. I also want to thank our current board members, Council Member Jamie Allen, Mayor John Cowman, Council Member Mike Martinez, and Council Member Brewster McCracken.

I also want to thank President/CEO Fred Gilliam for his outstanding leadership. I believe the talent level of the staff is as strong as it has even been. And I appreciate all of their efforts.

Over the past decade, I have seen a major shift in the region's approach to mobility. I couldn’t be more pleased to see our different agencies and leaders coming together to identify and build a comprehensive mobility system. The burgeoning partnerships range from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the agency you chair; to Mayor Will Wynn, whose vision for a downtown rail circulator system led you to create the CAMPO Transit Working Group, to the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Take on Traffic group, and the Real Estate Council of Austin, which has developed a mass transit circulator proposal.

As this energy and enthusiasm demonstrates, transportation in Central Texas is no longer a zero-sum, roads-only discussion. We are now coming together to explore the ways that roads, rail, and buses should work together. I am honored to have played a part in that vital evolution. As you know, the only constant in this community is change; I believe Capital Metro is doing well in response to this new landscape.

With that said, I believe these changes create an opportune moment for a new direction. While there is never a right time to leave, I nevertheless feel my time has come. I would like nothing more than to stay on until the day I take my first train ride. But that would not be fair to the agency.

I believe that whoever chairs Capital Metro's Board of Directors will need as much time as possible to grasp the complex issues facing the agency, and to prepare for the next legislative session. The new Chair also will need to work with the CAMPO Peer Review Committee – which you appointed to study the agency and its peers across the country – and to act swiftly and decisively on the recommendations that come out of that process. And likely new air quality rules, which would accompany Central Texas' expected non-compliance with the federal Clean Air Act, will require new strategies by Capital Metro and the rest of Central Texas. My leaving now will allow this time.

All of these are exciting challenges. But I think it is time for someone else to take them on.

Senator, please accept this as my official letter of resignation as chair of the Capital Metro Board of Directors effective May 31, 2008. Again, I gratefully thank you for the opportunity and privilege to serve my community.

Sincerely,
E. Lee Walker

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Lee Walker, Capital Metro

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