Shortly after being confirmed Friday, the interim head of the Capital Area Transit System said he has a different management style from outgoing leader Bob Mirabito, who announced his resignation earlier this week.
Bill Deville, formerly the agency’s chief revenue officer, said he is more deliberate and more of a people person than Mirabito, whose last day is May 6.
“My success depends on the people around me,” Deville said.
In a special meeting, the CATS board appointed Deville to lead the agency while it searches for a permanent replacement. They unanimously approved a $150,000 annual salary under a four-month contract with monthly options to extend the deal for up to a year. Deville said he is throwing his hat in the ring to become the permanent CEO.
Board member Ken Perret said the agency will begin a national search for a new leader that will take at least four months.
“We’re going to look at all possibilities. … We’re not gonna cut any corners,” he said in an interview.
Perret will lead the search committee, joined by Chairman Jim Brandt, Vice Chairwoman Linda Perkins and board member Donna Collins-Lewis, who also serves on the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council. Baton Rouge Area Chamber President Adam Knapp; Together Baton Rouge organizer Edgar Cage; former CATS board Chairman and LSU law professor Chris Tyson; Center for Planning Excellence Chairman Cordell Haymon; and local union president Katie Guy will round out the committee. A member of the CATS Riders’ Association also has been invited to serve but had not responded by Friday afternoon.
Perret said he wants to hear candidates’ ideas on attracting new riders — including people with cars — and providing customer service and reliable transit.
Several representatives of the Amalgamated Transit Union also expressed their hopes for the future of CATS. Washington, D.C.-based union representative Anthony Garland said leadership must not just manage day-to-day operations but consider the long-term vision for the system and how it fits into community development at large. He also said the union has “some very serious concerns” about issues such as safety and maintenance.
The local transit union held a community meeting Friday evening at the Martin Luther King Center with the two international union representatives, Garland and Antonette Bryant, and Deville in attendance. The national union leaders encouraged community members, CATS riders and employees to voice their concerns to local politicians and to work together with the union and community groups to improve the transit system.
“You can’t complain about what you have if you haven’t done anything to make it better,” Garland said to an audience of about 40.
Buses breaking down, flat tires and two-hour waits at bus stops were just a few of the issues mentioned at the meeting. Garland said bus riders are the ones who need to bring these issues to the forefront.
“You have to be the eyes and ears,” he said.
The national union representatives plan to push a statewide funding campaign for Louisiana public transit and a safety campaign, which they will present to the CATS board on April 19, Bryant said.
Speakers from the union and the board at the earlier meeting Friday agreed on one matter: They are not looking to hire a private firm to oversee the CATS administration.
Perret and Collins-Lewis specifically expressed disinterest in privatizing CATS. Brandt said the same, though told board members that if anyone would like to explore the option, it could be discussed at a meeting in the future.
Interestingly, Deville, the interim CEO, started at CATS on a contract. He said he spent about two years working with CATS as an employee of MV Transportation Inc. before being hired on as the system’s chief revenue officer in December 2013. He had previously worked for the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority.
Before formally accepting Mirabito’s resignation, several board members thanked the outgoing CEO, who did not attend Friday’s meeting. Brandt specifically noted that Mirabito assembled a talented group of administrators and said he and Chief Financial Officer Conner Burns put in place strong financial accountability.
Writer Annie Ourso contributed to this report. Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.