NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Thursday, June 23rd, 2022

Sound Transit Board unanimously hires Julie Timm as its new Chief Executive Officer

It’s offi­cial: Puget Sound’s Region­al Trans­porta­tion Author­i­ty, bet­ter known as Sound Tran­sit, is get­ting a new chief exec­u­tive officer.

Julie Timm, who cur­rent­ly heads the Greater Rich­mond Tran­sit Com­pa­ny, will soon be mov­ing across the coun­try to take the helm of Sound Tran­sit. Formed in the 1990s after the Leg­is­la­ture gave King, Pierce, and Sno­homish coun­ties the autho­riza­tion to form a new region­al tran­sit enti­ty to increase free­dom of mobil­i­ty in Wash­ing­ton’s urban heart, Sound Tran­sit is in the mid­dle of a decades-long effort to con­struct a high capac­i­ty tran­sit net­work across the region.

“In hir­ing Julie Timm, the Sound Tran­sit Board chose an accom­plished CEO who offers the right mix of skills and knowl­edge to guide our tran­sit sys­tem for­ward,” said Sound Tran­sit Board Chair and Uni­ver­si­ty Place Coun­cil Mem­ber Kent Keel in a state­ment. “It’s no easy task to plan, build and oper­ate the largest tran­sit expan­sion in the nation. Julie brings the lead­er­ship and col­lab­o­ra­tive approach to ensure our suc­cess­ful work continues.”

The board­’s deci­sion to accept the exec­u­tive search com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tion was unan­i­mous, with two coun­ty exec­u­tives (Pierce Coun­ty’s Bruce Dammeier and King Coun­ty’s Dow Con­stan­tine) voic­ing great sat­is­fac­tion with the search process and its out­come. State law pro­vides that coun­ty exec­u­tives sit on the Sound Tran­sit Board and also appoint the oth­er board­mem­bers from their respec­tive coun­ties, so they have a lot of influ­ence on Sound Tran­sit’s trajectory.

Timm suc­ceeds Peter Rogoff, who was hired in 2015 to replace leg­endary CEO Joni Earl, one of NPI’s Lynn Allen Award honorees.

Via WebEx, Timm told board­mem­bers she’s extreme­ly appre­cia­tive to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to lead Sound Tran­sit and will now be look­ing for a place to live.

After hear­ing that com­ment, mul­ti­ple board­mem­bers jok­ing­ly sug­gest­ed that she buy a home in the city or coun­ty they represent.

“I am pro­found­ly grate­ful to join the Sound Tran­sit team’s work to trans­form lives across the Puget Sound region for gen­er­a­tions to come,” Timm said in a pre­pared state­ment. (She also thanked the board, as men­tioned, dur­ing the meeting.)

“Togeth­er, we will con­tin­ue to show what is achiev­able when we pri­or­i­tize the health of our peo­ple and our plan­et. More than dou­bling the reach of light rail in the next few years rep­re­sents a his­toric lev­el of investment.”

“We will keep these and fur­ther projects rolling through strong part­ner­ships and inno­v­a­tive solu­tions that ben­e­fit our par­ents, our chil­dren, and our children’s chil­dren. It will not be easy or com­fort­able to com­plete this vision. I am tru­ly hum­bled to become part of such a tremen­dous effort.”

Timm is cor­rect that the jour­ney ahead won’t be easy or comfortable.

Sound Tran­sit has a lot of dif­fi­cult, thorny fis­cal and align­ment deci­sions to make in the next few years, espe­cial­ly with respect to the vot­er-approved Bal­lard and West Seat­tle exten­sions, as was evi­dent from the pub­lic com­ment peri­od of today’s meet­ing, in which numer­ous speak­ers offered align­ment feedback.

Our friends at The Urban­ist have put togeth­er an exten­sive list of issues that will be on Tim­m’s desk from day one as Sound Tran­sit’s new CEO, which is def­i­nite­ly worth read­ing. We con­cur that improv­ing the rid­er­ship expe­ri­ence should be a top pri­or­i­ty for Julie, along with fig­ur­ing out how to make the board and senior staff more acces­si­ble to more peo­ple. Sound Tran­sit will make bet­ter deci­sions if its lead­er­ship are more ground­ed and con­nect­ed to the com­mu­ni­ties where the agency is plan­ning to con­struct or mod­i­fy right of way.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to Julie Timm on being unan­i­mous­ly select­ed as Sound Tran­sit’s next leader. We hope her arrival gives the agency a ben­e­fi­cial jolt of ener­gy at a crit­i­cal point in its more than twen­ty-five year history.

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