Four finalists have been selected in the competition to be the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's chief executive officer, a newly created role as the transit agency assumes its own executive responsibilities for the first time in years.
The finalists include Derrick Breun, a regional vice president with Transdev, the international company that has run the RTA’s operations for a decade, and Mark Major, a former Transdev New Orleans executive and before that the RTA's general manager.
Also in the running are Mikel Oglesby, a deputy executive director at the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, and Alex Wiggins, chief of security and law enforcement at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The four finalists were selected by a search committee from among 67 hopefuls who applied ahead of a May 13 deadline. Eighteen of the 67 were deemed to meet the job’s minimum qualifications, which included a dozen years in government and at least five years as a senior transit executive.
The agency is selecting a CEO as it prepares to reduce the role its private contractor, Transdev, has played in managing the city's transit system. Since 2008, that French-based conglomerate has run nearly all aspects of the RTA, both administrative and operational.
But Transdev is now competing against another firm to maintain and operate the authority's buses, streetcars and ferries, and executive management of the agency will fall to the RTA's own staff, led by the new CEO.
An agreement the RTA hopes to sign by Sept. 1 will see either Transdev or MV Transportation of Dallas win the operations contract. A committee scored their proposals recently and found Transdev’s pitch for the job superior, but the full board will make the final selection.
The RTA’s interim executive director, Jared Munster, has 12 years of experience at City Hall but less than two years working in transit, so he was not eligible to apply for the permanent job. He was director of the Department of Safety and Permits before shifting to the RTA.
An executive committee met Thursday to interview the four finalists. The committee will meet again Tuesday to announce its favored candidate; the full board will have the final say at a meeting later that same day.
Of the four men in the running for the RTA's top job, Mark Major's face will be most familiar to New Orleanians.
Major, 58, a Loyola University graduate, spent more than 30 years at the RTA in various roles, including general manager from 2006 to 2008. In that role, he sought to keep the RTA's operations under local employees' control, but lost out to Transdev, which hired Justin Augustine III to run the agency.
After a brief stint as head of the transit system in Phoenix, Arizona, Major returned to New Orleans to work as chief investment officer under Augustine. But he was ousted last year after a dispute over the agency’s new ferries.
Then-board Chairwoman Sharonda Williams signed off in 2017 on a $750,000 rush order for the boats that had not been approved by the full board. Williams claimed later not to have realized what she signed, and Augustine deferred all questions about the incident to Major. Major was pushed out a few months later, in January 2018.
Major has also been president and CEO of Family Services of Greater New Orleans.
Breun, 45, also is no stranger to New Orleans. The Brother Martin High School and University of New Orleans graduate was Transdev’s chief operating officer in the city during the early years of the firm’s contract with the RTA.
He was later promoted to area vice president of Transdev’s southeastern region, overseeing 16 operations in various states. He landed another promotion, to regional vice president, in 2015.
Breun also served as general manager of Transdev’s Jefferson Parish contract from 2005 to 2008.
Oglesby, 54, has a 30-year track record in transit, according to a biography on the website of his South Florida job. Before joining the Florida agency in 2015, he worked on providing paratransit services for the disabled at transit systems in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.
He has also served as general manager of the SunLine Transit Agency in California, which serves the Coachella Valley area, and assistant general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
At SunLine, he was placed on administrative leave while the agency conducted an investigation into financial issues and employee terminations, according to the Desert Sun newspaper. The probe ended when Oglesby resigned in 2013.
Wiggins, 52, joined the Los Angeles transit system as executive director of security in 2015, after more than 20 years in transportation jobs. He has worked for transit systems in Denver, Chicago and Oceanside, California, serving as chief administrative officer and deputy executive director, among other roles.