John Hertel )
John Hertel, the first CEO of the Regional Transit Authority who also refused to sign his contract because of the lack of funds to hire staff, announced he's bowing out permanently.
A statement released by Hertel, who is the general manager of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), made mention of preparing for the suburban transportation agency's millage this summer as the reason he is holding onto his current post.
“I am pleased to have been involved for the last seven years moving the Regional Transit Authority process along to this point," his statement read. "I also appreciate everything the RTA Board members have done and are doing to make major transit improvements in southeast Michigan. I look forward to continuing my work at SMART and cooperatively supporting the efforts for improved regional transit in southeast Michigan.”
RTA Board Chair Paul Hillegonds released a statement Tuesday, saying: "I am disappointed that John will not be leading the Regional Transit Authority, but understand his concern about leaving SMART shortly before an important millage campaign. John has been very engaged in moving the RTA forward from the moment he was offered the position of CEO. The RTA board will re-open the CEO selection process for a permanent leader. On behalf of the RTA board and staff, I wish John well and look forward to continuing to work with him."
Hertel's surprise departure just one day before the RTA board is scheduled to hold its first board meeting of the year comes as the transit authority is eyeing whether to seek voter approval this fall for the first leg of a bus rapid transit project slated for Woodward Avenue from Detroit to Pontiac. The route is being finalized and a recommendation is expected to reach the RTA board for approval this spring.
Although his statement made no mention of the RTA's struggles to find funding so that he could hire staff, Hertel told The Detroit News on Monday that funds still had not been granted by the state. He and other RTA officials had been lobbying in Lansing for months for additional money.
Hertel was offered a three-year contract worth $160,000 annually last October but quickly declined to sign the deal given the dearth of funds. Several RTA members had complained months earlier that a lack of funding could hinder the new transit agency created by the state Legislature in 2012 to better coordinate transportation in southeast Michigan.