New SFMTA boss will likely be a local hire 

The successor to departing Muni chief Nathaniel Ford will almost certainly be a local hire, and there is a chance the agency’s next executive director will no longer be The City’s highest-paid employee.

Ford will be stepping down on June 30 after 5½ years as the executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is responsible for overseeing transit, traffic, pedestrian, bike and cab operations in The City.

Tom Nolan, chair of the SFMTA’s board of directors, said the agency, unlike with its past two executive hires, won’t do a national search for Ford’s replacement. He said there is plenty of local talent, both within the agency and within the region, capable of running the agency.

Two local candidates widely considered as inside favorites are Carter Rohan, the SFMTA’s executive deputy director, and Ed Reiskin, the chief of the Department of Public Works.

Nolan said that Reiskin is a proven, quality manager who could handle the SFMTA’s myriad responsibilities. He also said that he has “enormous respect” for Rohan, who he called a “silent leader.”

“We’re going to seriously consider Carter, and reach out to him and see if he’s interested, and I’m sure we’ll do the same thing with Ed Reiskin,” Nolan said.

Nolan said the board would also consider Dorothy Dugger, who was recently forced out as BART’s general manager, if she expressed interest in the matter. 

Nolan said the board could negotiate a new salary for the executive director position. Ford’s $308,000 annual salary was the highest in The City, a scenario that might change with a new hire, said Nolan, who added that the board would work with Mayor Ed Lee on the job hiring process.

According to officials familiar with the situation, Reiskin is probably the clear favorite. There are questions if Rohan — the former capital projects director who has overseen Muni’s Central Subway project — is actually interested in taking over the top position. His family lives in Texas, and Rohan spends plenty of time there, said an agency official, who declined to be named.

Reiskin declined to speak about the matter and Rohan did not return calls for comment.

Meanwhile, Nolan and fellow SFMTA board member Malcolm Heinicke defended Ford’s  $384,000 severance package, which was criticized by some, including mayoral candidate and state Sen. Leland Yee, as a “golden parachute.”

Under the contract agreed upon by Ford and the agency in 2006, he is eligible for one year’s plus deferred compensation and three months of health benefits if he is “terminated by the board for convenience.” Ford’s severance package appears to mirror those terms.

Cashing out

Nathaniel Ford will get $384,000 to step down from the SFMTA. Here are the details of his severance package:

$308,000 Ford’s annual salary

$67,000 Ford’s deferred compensation and unclaimed bonuses

$9,000 Family health care benefits for three months

Source: SFMTA

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Will Reisman

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