Gomez to Lead Cap Metro Board

Travis County commissioner moves to top board seat at transportation agency

Margaret Gomez was elected chair of the Capital Metro Board on Monday. She is a Travis Co. commissioner representing Precinct 4. Austinite Gomez said she will focus on mobility and strive to build stronger regional consensus on how Cap Metro should move forward.

Capital Metro is currently facing multiple, complex issues that impact all of Central Texas as it strives to add regional rail service, raise fares, resolve labor disputes, facilitate land-use and transportation planning (e.g., transit-oriented development), and expand its services as demand rises with gas prices. As a county commissioner since 1995 and a Cap Metro board member (most recently as vice chair) since 1997, Gomez has rarely been known for visible leadership or out-front activism on issues; she characterized herself as more of a careful researcher and quiet consensus-builder.

Asked for her leadership vision for 2008-09, Gomez said, "I'm committed to the original purpose for the creation of Capital Metro in 1985, which is to be sure we move people around safely and consistently." She said she would stress legislative issues, proactive planning, and the budget impacts of the larger economy. Her highest priority as board chair: "I really want to be inclusive of all the people in the community, so we don't leave anybody off the bus."

The board represents both urban and suburban/regional perspectives. Mike Martinez had sought the influential chair position, promising to bring strong leadership to resolving labor and other issues and to championing Austin's needs. He had taken a more activist stance than Gomez on the need to implement changes at the transit agency. But prior to the vote, fellow City Council Member Brewster McCracken had thrown his support to John Cowman; the Leander mayor sought to give stronger representation to Williamson Co. interests and supported a comprehensive regional solution. (McCracken said Martinez, unlike Cowman, had never talked to him about becoming chair.) With the backing of CAMPO board appointee John Treviño, Gomez became the centrist choice for serving out the last year of the chair vacancy created by Lee Walker's resignation. The final vote was 6-1, with only Cowman voting for Cowman.

The vice chair spot went to Jamie Jatzlau; the Manor City Council member edged out Martinez by one vote. Elected secretary was Mike Manor, the new CAMPO appointee. That leaves the city of Austin – which provides some 90% of the agency's financing, through sales tax financing – without a formal board leadership position. On Oct. 1, the board was scheduled to hold a three-hour retreat to discuss goals, long-range planning issues, and pressing matters such as the opening date for its Red Line MetroRail service.

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Margaret Gomez, Capital Metro

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