Denver’s head of transportation to lead Los Angeles County’s Metro

By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

POSTED: 03/11/15, 6:18 PM PDT

Phil Washington, who resigned his post as head of Denver Regional Transportation District on Wednesday, will head up the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to the Denver Post and local sources.

Washington will replace Art Leahy, who is leaving his post as CEO of the MTA, known as Metro, starting in April. Leahy was selected to head up Metrolink, the five-county Southern California commuter rail service, according to documents.

Leahy emerged as the No. 1 candidate as CEO of Metrolink and is scheduled to be hired at an annual base salary of $330,000. His hiring will come before the Metrolink board of directors on Friday for a vote.

The merry-go-round of transit executive officers began Wednesday when Washington submitted his letter of resignation to his board in Denver to clear a path for him to take the job as CEO of Metro, an agency with a $5.5 billion budget and is involved in building or extending five rail projects in L.A. County, according to Pauletta Tonilas, who was cited in the Denver Post story.

“The greatest impact that one can have on any enterprise is to continue to see the results of their involvement long after they have left,” Washington wrote in his letter of resignation. “I will always be proud to speak to my years here at the RTD and the success and experiences that we have shared.”

Washington worked for the Denver transit agency for 16 years and served as CEO for the past six years.

He was pursued by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, chairman of the Metro board, to replace Leahy.

The Metro board will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday for the “consideration of candidates for position of CEO” in a closed session. The closed-door meeting will also include Garcetti in conference with labor negotiators representing Metro unions.

Most sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Washington was the No. 1 choice for the job.

“He’s had experiences with public-private partnerships. He is skilled at pulling together money from different sources,” said Bart Reed, executive director of The Transit Coalition, a watchdog group based in the San Fernando Valley.

Washington is credited with completing the $2.2 billion Eagle P3 project, a $2.2 billion public-private partnership, that built the RTD’s East Rail Line, a commuter rail from Denver International Airport to downtown Denver.

Reed said Leahy is a good choice to head up Metrolink, whose troubles include safety issues as well as grumbling from amid the various counties it serves.

“I think he is the perfect candidate for Metrolink. He has good relationships with the five different counties,” Reed said.

Before joining Metro, Leahy ran the Orange County Transportation Authority.