Cap Met Names CEO Finalists
Interim CEO Doug Allen does not make the cut
By Lee Nichols,
12:52PM, Tue. May 11, 2010
After narrowing candidates down from about a dozen to a secret six, Capital Metro’s board of directors announced the two finalists for its CEO/president position this morning: Linda S. Watson of Orlando, Fla. and Deborah Wathen Finn of New York.
Asked if the elimination of interim CEO Doug Allen as a candidate reflected a desire for a fresh start for the troubled transit agency, board member Norm Chafetz – the chair of Cap Met’s national CEO search committee – said “That really didn’t enter into it.
“Really, just looking at the backgrounds of the candidates, we just felt that these candidates provided the better fit with their experience and where they’ve been. It was a very tough decision and a very close decision, but we have to make tough decisions sometimes.”
Nonetheless, the board wanted somebody “to take us in a new direction,” Chafetz said, “to make Capital Metro an agency that the city of Austin and the community can be proud of, and run a first-class and cost-effective bus operation and rail operation.”
Watson is currently the CEO of the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which serves Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties, a position she has held since 2004. She was previously general manager of Corpus Christi’s Regional Transportation Authority and an assistant GM of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
Wathen Finn is currently president of the Wathen Group, a consulting firm in the transportation industry. She has previous experience as senior vice president and global director for transit and rail at CH2M HILL, an engineering and construction firm, officer-in-charge of the New York office of HNTB, a similar firm, and executive positions with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, NJ Transit, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
In a press release, Allen said, “Capital Metro has made significant progress since I was appointed interim President/CEO last October. While I am disappointed that I will not have the opportunity to continue to lead that effort, I trust that the Board of Directors will make the best possible decision for Capital Metro and the region.”
Allen came to Capital Metro in 2008 after serving as an executive VP with Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and moved into the interim CEO position after Fred Gilliam retired in September, ending Gilliam’s stormy seven years at the helm.
“Doug took over the agency last fall at arguably its most difficult hour,” said Board Chair and Austin Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez. “He took the reins and ran with them, and made some very difficult decisions immediately. I would argue today that they were some of the best decisions he could have made to move forward with getting the Red Line up and running and getting the agency back on track.
“But the committee went through a process and interviewed six finalist candidates,” Martinez continued. “They came to a consensus on the final two, and we will respect the work of the committee. Doug’s experience was certainly equal to the other finalist candidates, but in the end, these are the two the committee felt should be the finalists.” Martinez said he hopes Allen will stay at Capital Metro.
On Monday, May 17, the full board will interview the candidates in executive session at City Hall, followed by a closed-door session with selected community stakeholders. Then, 3-5pm, the public can meet and question Wathen Finn and Watson at a public forum held at IBC Bank’s conference room at 2817 E. Cesar Chavez.