John Hertel (John Sobczak)
The Regional Transit Authority board voted Wednesday to approve John C. Hertel as its first CEO.
Hertel’s three-year contract will pay him $160,000 a year. It will expire March 31, 2017.
Hertel told the board and audience that nothing more important was needed in southeast Michigan than creating jobs and “improving mass transit.” The former general manager of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) said he would work tirelessly to improve those goals.
“We are in a primitive state,” Hertel said, referring to transportation in the region. “We have a very long way to go to catch up.”
Hertel said he has been interviewing potential staff members in anticipation of his formal hiring.
Paul Hillengonds, the chairman of the RTA board, said he’s excited for Hertel to take the helm and get started helping to transform transit in southeast Michigan.
“He has a passion,” he said. “I think he really with the rest of us want to leave a legacy for the region. We truly believe that for the region to grow in the future economically, we need to enhance transit. We need to take the steps to get there.”
Hertel is a former three-term state senator who has served as the chairman of the Macomb and Wayne county boards of commissioners. He was also the general manager of the Michigan State Fair.
The task for the newly-created agency will be to convince the public to support either a property tax increase or a vehicle registration fee to pay for operations.
The RTA, which is to coordinate mass transit projects in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties, is expected to push for a bus rapid transit system on major roads, including Woodward.
Also today, the board increased the size of the citizens advisory committee to 50 members, 10 from each county the authority serves and 10 from Detroit, to address concerns about the lack of fairness and representation.
The original 30-member advisory committee had only three members from Macomb County, setting off complaints that the board was favoring Detroit over the suburbs. The board had appointed 15 members from Wayne County — with 10 coming from Detroit — eight from Oakland and four from Washtenaw.