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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 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.

Andrew Villeneuve

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