Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm aboard the T-Line
Sound Transit's chief executive officer Julie Timm was a great guide during the preview ride (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Sound Tran­sit’s chief exec­u­tive offi­cer Julie Timm will be leav­ing the agency in a few weeks to return to the East Coast and care for her father, the agency announced today. Tim­m’s depar­ture, which came togeth­er quick­ly, was described by ST’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions team as prompt­ed by a fam­i­ly matter.

“Sound Tran­sit CEO Julie Timm announced today she will be leav­ing the agency in order to return to the East Coast to take care of fam­i­ly mat­ters,” the state­ment said. “Since join­ing Sound Tran­sit in Sep­tem­ber 2022, Timm has over­seen a renewed empha­sis on the rid­er expe­ri­ence as Sound Tran­sit approach­es the open­ing of sev­er­al new exten­sions, start­ing with East Link next spring. Her focus and lead­er­ship in cen­ter­ing cur­rent and future rid­ers in the agency’s cap­i­tal and oper­at­ing pro­grams will ben­e­fit the region for years to come.”

“Timm’s last day with Sound Tran­sit will be Jan­u­ary 12th,” the state­ment went on to say. “The board and staff lead­er­ship will form a tran­si­tion team to nav­i­gate the agency through the lead­er­ship tran­si­tion. The board is expect­ed to appoint an inter­im CEO in the weeks ahead.”

“While not impos­si­ble, it would be incred­i­bly chal­leng­ing for me to main­tain a split focus while main­tain­ing the intense lev­el of sup­port and sta­bil­i­ty Sound Tran­sit deserves from its CEO,” Timm explained in the all-staff email.

“The Board has expressed their full com­mit­ment that they will pro­vide sta­bil­i­ty dur­ing the tran­si­tion peri­od as a new CEO is select­ed to lead the vision and mis­sion of the ST [Sound Tran­sit] Pro­gram, and they will be pro­vid­ing more infor­ma­tion in the com­ing weeks,” Tim­m’s note added.

The “fam­i­ly mat­ter” ref­er­enced in the announce­ment per­tains to Tim­m’s father, who resides on the oth­er coast and needs an increased amount of care.

Timm was hired in 2022 after the Sound Tran­sit Board of Direc­tors decid­ed not to renew the con­tract of Peter Rogoff, who was cho­sen as Joni Ear­l’s replace­ment sev­er­al years ago. The Sound Tran­sit Board is an eigh­teen-mem­ber fed­er­at­ed body con­sist­ing of the King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive, the Sno­homish Coun­ty Exec­u­tive, the Pierce Coun­ty Exec­u­tive, the WSDOT Sec­re­tary, and fif­teen coun­ty and city elect­ed offi­cials appoint­ed by the three executives.

Timm quick­ly made a favor­able impres­sion with tran­sit advo­cates and con­stituen­cies served by Sound Tran­sit. She often post­ed com­mute and work pho­tos to her Twit­ter account. She is known for her cheer and professionalism.

An impor­tant mile­stone dur­ing her tenure was the open­ing of the Hill­top Link exten­sion in Taco­ma ear­li­er this autumn, an event we cov­ered right here on The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate. Anoth­er mile­stone was the deci­sion to open part of East Link / Line 2 between Red­mond and Belle­vue as a stand­alone “starter line” next spring.

On the oth­er side of the ledger, plan­ning for key ST3 projects remains mired in devel­op­ment pur­ga­to­ry. ST3 is short­hand for Sound Tran­sit Sys­tem Expan­sion Phase III, an ambi­tious bal­lot mea­sure approved by vot­ers in 2016. Although NPI’s research has found that vot­ers remain very sup­port­ive of ST3, Sound Tran­sit’s Board has yet to approve final align­ments for many of the projects (such as light rail to West Seat­tle and Bal­lard) which is caus­ing deliv­ery dates to slip.

Whether or not Tim­m’s depar­ture neg­a­tive­ly impacts the next stages of ST3 plan­ning remains to be seen. Hope­ful­ly, it won’t. Sound Tran­sit is los­ing its chief exec­u­tive, but it has many oth­er senior staff, so the agen­cy’s gears will keep turn­ing despite the lead­er­ship tran­si­tion. The board found Timm through a nation­al search and may opt for a sim­i­lar process to find Tim­m’s successor.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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