CapMetro CEO search narrowed to two; meet the finalists May 17

After an extensive national search for a Capital Metro president/CEO that yielded 110 applicants, the Capital Metro Board has narrowed the field to two finalists.

Deborah Wathen Finn – President, The Wathen Group, LLC (New York City)

Linda S. Watson – CEO, Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Orlando)

The board invites you to meet the candidates and hear their priorities for Capital Metro at a public forum/town hall on May 17, from 3-5 p.m. at IBC Bank (2817 Cesar Chavez).

At the forum, the candidates will make opening remarks and then take questions from the audience.

We realize that hosting the forum from 3 to 5 p.m. is not the ideal time for a lot of working people; unfortunately, this was the best available option. However, if you can’t make the public forum, you can still participate by submitting a question in advance. There are three ways to submit your question:

1. E-mail
2. Tweet it with the hashtag #capmetCEO
3. Post it here as a comment

The director of HR will select a few representative questions from all those received and pose them to the finalists on May 17. We’ll let you know how the candidates responded.

Channel 6 will film the forum, and while it cannot be broadcast live, we will post the dates and times it will be aired.


Capital Metro contracted with Gilbert Tweed in January to conduct a national search for CEO. Gilbert Tweed received 110 applications.

They conducted telephone interviews with about 46 candidates, then whittled the field to six.

Those six were interviewed by the Executive Search Committee of the CMTA Board in April. (Norm Chafetz, Chair; Beverly Silas; Frank Fernandez; John Langmore)

The Executive Search Committee named two finalists on May 11; they will be interviewed by the full Capital Metro Board and separately by a panel of community stakeholders, on May 17. The candidates will meet the community at a public forum/town hall on May 17, 3-5 p.m., IBC Bank (Cesar Chavez and Pleasant Valley).

14 thoughts on “CapMetro CEO search narrowed to two; meet the finalists May 17

  1. Erik

    Here goes:

    Question for Linda S. Watson: What deciding factors can you provide for why you would leave CFRTA at the very start of a $1.25 Billion federally-funded High Speed Rail system? Orlando would be the hub for this statewide project, the first stage connecting Orlando and Tampa Bay by 2014. What is your opinion of inter-modal transit networks?

    Question for Deborah Wathen Finn: You held several executive positions within the NJ Transit’s rail divison throughout the 1990’s, a system that currently comprises of 11 lines and 162 stations (including both traditional disesel freight and electric light-rail). What, if any, historical similarities/challenges to that system’s expansion do you see with the Red Line for MetroRail? The NJ transit system’s predominant purpose is to bring people to/from suburbs into downtown NYC; how does increasing urban density and limiting of urban sprawl fit into your view of transit?

  2. Stuart

    Dear CapMetro:

    Here is my question to both finalists: What do you think about Cap Metro’s decision to have a meeting like this from 3-5pm on a weekday when they know that most people capable of making an informed decision about what they see will be at work? Yes, even in this tough economy.

    Here is my followup question: When will Cap Metro begin to demonstrate a real commitment to the People of Central Texas by holding a meeting such as this at a time and place that is convenient for even its gainfully employed, taxpaying backers to attend and participate?

    1. Erica

      yes, the timing of the event is unfortunate. Coordinating the schedules of the two candidates and the CMTA board was challenging. Channel 6 will tape the event and will let us know in advance when it will be aired (and we will let you know). I believe there will be an opportunity to address the board with your feedback about the candidates at a public meeting after the 17th.

  3. Question: How do you intend to deliver rail service to central Austin, given that Austin residents pay almost all of Capital Metro’s bills and are getting nearly none of the meager benefits of the Red Line?

    (Note: If anybody intends to repeat the tripe that most Red Line stops are within the city limits, please don’t. The only stations within city limits with significant parking are on the very edge of the city limits and thus much more likely to draw from outside; and none of the Austin stations are near any existing urban residential density that is currently or will in the future provide any significant walk-up traffic).

    1. Ben Jenkins

      M1EK —

      Your language isn’t helpful – it will be difficult for Erica to commend you on a good question you given that you’re not taking a fair tone.

  4. Phil

    How do you plan on improving both customer service and their image of being focused on customer satisfaction? For example, simply having a direct link on the front page of for customer feedback (as well as urging riders for more feedback) would be immensely useful.

    Also, how will you plan on addressing bus delays and communicating those to riders? For example, will people be able to call and quickly (within 1 minute) get the status of a late bus? Or for those with smart phones, will there be a way to get a near-real-time status of buses?

    As someone who lives in Central Austin, I have found that delays and the high variability of bus arrivals can make riding impractical (and some variability can be tolerated as long as people know when the bus will actually be arriving). Service expansion won’t do us as much good unless Cap Metro has a good grip on what works, what doesn’t, and a plan to fix what’s broken.

  5. ncrow2010

    The Austin community has been very fortunate to have a transit authority that meets and exceeds the needs of all transit dependent citizens. For 25 year and more the services for our customers with disabilities have grown to the point where people are moving to Austin for thew accessible transit. The fixed route carries over 2 million rides for customers with disabilities, MetroAccess is close to 700 thousand trips a year with in-house dedicated employees, Metro has a transportation trainer staff person, an Accessible Transit staff person and have created (and are still building on) the largest sidewalk access projects ever. Capital Metro promotes independence and access for the citizens with disabilities. Some don’t understand that this is PUBLIC TRANSIT. Some factions want limo service at little or no cost to them.

    Capital Metro has been a leader in the Paratransit and Accessible transit programs–we are not done yet. Will the candidates provide their personal and professional commitment to continuing access and supporting the foundations built for future growth? It all comes at a cost. Build it in and your investment goes further. Capital Metro’s commitment has always been to place access above all for all citizens. Please state your position on accessible transit, the ADA, and future needs as the population ages.

  6. Misty

    Good news. We’re working with Channel 6 to record the public forum and broadcast it on their public access channel. It will be aired fives times beginning next week. We are also planning to post the video on the blog. More info to come. Stay tuned.

  7. Phil

    1. Do you feel that customer service needs to improve, and if so, how do you plan on improving it as well as getting more feedback from riders? For example, how about putting in a direct link on the front page to contact customer service?

    2. Also, what is your plan on handling bus delays? It’s understandable that delays occur due to traffic, but high variability in arrival times can make it impractical for casual riders and frustrating for regular riders. I think some degree of variability can be tolerated as long as riders know *when* the bus is actually coming, but there’s no easy way to do this currently. What if users could call Cap Metro and find out quickly (< 1 minute) the status of their bus? Or for those with smart phones, could Cap Metro eventually provide semi-real-time status of buses?

  8. Erica

    Phil, sorry. I think your first question went to the spam folder for some reason. I found it after your second post came in. Thanks for the questions–

  9. Erik

    Additional questions for both candidates:

    1. If hired, will you commit to using 100% public transit (with an emphasis on walk-bus-train) to commute to CapMetro HQ at a minimum of 3 days per week for at least the first 12 months of tenure? If you cannot commit to that, please explain why not.

    2. One of the major restrictions to wider usage of public transit is the trip-time in comparison to automobiles. To improve overall speed of service, are you in favor of A) reducing a number of stops within the downtown/central area, and B) considering a shift toward proof-of-payment boarding for busses ala MetroRail?

    3. Which US transit system do you best identify as a model for the future of Austin? What is your opinion of Urban Rail along existing streets?

    4. Are you familiar with the website

    5. Hypothetically speaking, would you be open to shifting executive pay to a performance-based compensation system? (i.e., pay increases/bonuses dependent upon successfully meeting a predefined list of operational/budgetary goals/timelines). As a public servant, don’t you believe that the on-going success of your leadership should be measured, and rewarded fairly?


    1. Erik

      Addendum to #5:

      5. I’d like to rather see you commit to a lower base salary, with the remainder of the money luring you like a carrot on a rope/stick. Do you believe that your personal financial success be placed above the duty towards serving your constituency’s needs and your organization’s budget crisis?

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