Muni chief Nathaniel Ford may be leaving for real this time 

The job status of Muni’s executive director, which has been in question for the past month, is likely to be decided Wednesday.

Nathaniel Ford, who took over as chief of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in January 2006, is considered the leading candidate for the top position at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, a department that manages transportation operations at the two main airports in the nation’s capital.

On Wednesday, the authority’s board of directors will hold a special meeting to make a decision on its search for a new executive director. The meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. on the East Coast, so the decision could be finalized while most of San Francisco is asleep.

If Ford is chosen as the authority’s leader and he accepts the position, he is expected to leave San Francisco after 60 days, according to SFMTA spokeswoman Kristen Holland. The SFMTA’s board of directors is expected to conduct a nationwide search for Ford’s replacement, Holland said.

Tom Nolan, the chair of the SFMTA’s board, said his group has met in closed session a couple times to discuss a succession plan for Ford, although he said the state’s public access laws have limited the scope of such talks.

Nolan said he expects Ford to stick around at the SFMTA for about 45 to 90 days if he takes the Washington job. The board will look both locally and nationally for a replacement, he said.

Nolan and Ford are actually in Washington as part of the American Public Transportation Association’s annual legislative conference.

The Washington opening is the latest in a string of positions Ford has been linked to over the years. However, this is the first time he’s made it this far in the hiring process for another top leadership position.

Since taking over at the SFMTA, Ford has overseen the completion of the T-Third Street light-rail line, moved the $1.6 billion Central Subway project forward and championed parking meter technology that will soon charge motorists more based on demand for spaces.

Also, he’s implemented two major service rearrangements, including one in May that slashed service 10 percent (it’s since been partially restored), while pushing through a series of fare increases in recent years.

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Will Reisman

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