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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

Sound Transit will get a new CEO next year: Peter Rogoff to depart in 2022, agency says

Puget Sound’s Region­al Trans­porta­tion Author­i­ty, bet­ter known as Sound Tran­sit, will be get­ting a new chief exec­u­tive offi­cer next year, the agency has announced.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff in front of a Siemens S70

Sound Tran­sit CEO Peter Rogoff lis­tens to remarks from board­mem­bers while stand­ing in front of the Siemens S70 cho­sen to be the first of its type to car­ry rid­ers (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

In an ear­ly evening press release, Board Chair Kent Keel said that Rogoff will remain as CEO until mid-2022 and then hand over duties to a yet-to-be-announced suc­ces­sor that the board hopes to find through a nation­al search.

The announce­ment fol­lowed a mul­ti-hour, closed-door exec­u­tive ses­sion in which the agen­cy’s board of direc­tors dis­cussed Rogof­f’s tenure and a poten­tial con­tract exten­sion. Rogof­f’s tenure has not been with­out fric­tion and con­tro­ver­sy, as pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed by The Seat­tle Times and Pub­li­co­la’s Eri­ca C. Bar­nett.

How­ev­er, the agency is mak­ing excel­lent progress towards com­plet­ing its ST2 projects (which were begun under Rogof­f’s pre­de­ces­sor, the leg­endary Joni Earl, one of two inau­gur­al recip­i­ents of NPI’s Lynn Allen Award) and has had great suc­cess in secur­ing fed­er­al funds for its needs under Rogof­f’s leadership.

Board­mem­bers ulti­mate­ly decid­ed that they want­ed new lead­er­ship, and vot­ed not to keep Rogoff on. (He is get­ting a short term exten­sion, how­ev­er, to ensure the agency is not sud­den­ly with­out a CEO right before North­gate Link opens.)

For­mer­ly the Fed­er­al Tran­sit Admin­is­tra­tor dur­ing the Oba­ma years, Rogoff came to Seat­tle to join Sound Tran­sit near­ly six years ago dur­ing the board chair­man­ship of Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine. He assumed his duties pri­or to the open­ing of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton, Capi­tol Hill, and Angle Lake Stations.

Cur­rent Board Chair Kent Keel, a Uni­ver­si­ty Place city coun­cilmem­ber, issued the fol­low­ing state­ment con­cern­ing Rogof­f’s depar­ture from the agency.

After more than six years serv­ing Sound Tran­sit and our region, CEO Peter Rogoff recent­ly informed the Board and me that he did not fore­see remain­ing in his role beyond the end of 2022.

Giv­en the vol­ume and inten­si­ty of cur­rent and upcom­ing work and the agency’s needs and inter­ests, the Sound Tran­sit Board has exer­cised its dis­cre­tion to pro­ceed imme­di­ate­ly to ini­ti­at­ing a nation­al search to select the agency’s next suc­cess­ful leader.

Now is a strate­gic time to iden­ti­fy our next CEO ahead of work to open light rail to the East­side in 2023 and to Lyn­nwood, Fed­er­al Way and Down­town Red­mond in 2024.

Peter has agreed to remain in his posi­tion until the sec­ond quar­ter of 2022 to assist in an order­ly transition.

The Sound Tran­sit Board is grate­ful to Peter for all his con­tri­bu­tions sup­port­ing the real­iza­tion of the largest tran­sit sys­tem expan­sion in the nation. Upon his arrival in ear­ly 2016 he worked with the Board and com­mu­ni­ties across the region to help shape and earn vot­er approval for the Sound Tran­sit 3 Plan while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly lead­ing efforts to advance major light rail expan­sions to the east, north and south. At present, all but one of Sound Transit’s sev­en major con­struc­tion projects are on time and per­form­ing on or below bud­get, putting the agency on a very sol­id path to near­ly tripling the size of its light rail net­work over just the next three years while it con­tin­ues to advance fur­ther expansions.

Peter not only helped design the largest tran­sit expan­sion pro­gram in Amer­i­ca but con­vert the agency to one that can deliv­er on its very ambi­tious plans. At the same time he sharp­ened the agency’s focus on sus­tain­abil­i­ty and improv­ing rid­ers’ dai­ly expe­ri­ences while advanc­ing equi­table access to tran­sit and afford­able housing.

Peter’s lega­cy at Sound Tran­sit includes apply­ing his deep fed­er­al expe­ri­ence to help secure crit­i­cal fund­ing for our region.

He has worked close­ly with our con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion as well as the Oba­ma, Trump, and Biden admin­is­tra­tions to obtain unprece­dent­ed lev­els of fed­er­al grant and loan support.

He has also ush­ered in reforms to bring about a more col­lab­o­ra­tive, dis­ci­plined and informed annu­al bud­get process, all to the great ben­e­fit of Puget Sound taxpayers.

The Board sin­cere­ly thanks Peter for his accom­plish­ments lead­ing Sound Transit’s ded­i­cat­ed and tal­ent­ed staff, and for his con­tin­u­ing con­tri­bu­tions over the next six to nine months. The Sound Tran­sit Board will soon pro­ceed to form­ing a search com­mit­tee and launch our recruit­ment to iden­ti­fy Peter’s successor.

The posi­tion of Sound Tran­sit CEO is one of the most impor­tant pub­lic lead­er­ship jobs in our region. It’s a high vis­i­bil­i­ty, high stakes position.

In its first half decade, Sound Tran­sit did not have high cal­iber lead­er­ship at the top, which led to a tough stretch known as the dark years when the agency strug­gled to find its foot­ing and get con­struc­tion going on Link light rail.

The agency was saved from a dis­as­trous fate by Joni Earl, who stepped into the void and turned the ship around. Under her lead­er­ship, frozen Sound Move projects got unstuck, and the agency embarked on a suc­cess­ful Phase II expan­sion cam­paign to ensure that Link light rail would remain under con­tin­u­ous con­struc­tion even after the starter line open to the public.

Sound Tran­sit is now on the verge of deliv­er­ing most of those ST2 projects, with a huge num­ber of new sta­tions due to open in 2023 and 2024.

But the ST3 projects approved in 2016 are stuck in some­thing of a devel­op­ment morass, with costs going up and plan­ning drag­ging on, at a time when the region is grap­pling with the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the cli­mate cri­sis and a pandemic.

Recent research com­mis­sioned by NPI in part­ner­ship with Seat­tle Sub­way shows vot­ers in the Emer­ald City are eager to accel­er­ate the deliv­ery of ST3.

That will take wise lead­er­ship in addi­tion to more resources.

We hope the Board finds the right per­son for the job and we join Chair Keel and the board­mem­bers in express­ing our appre­ci­a­tion to Peter Rogoff for his many years of ser­vice to the peo­ple of the Seat­tle-Taco­ma-Everett met­ro­pol­i­tan area.

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