cap Metro chief to be­gin with pay of up to $256,500

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ben Wear

New Cap­i­tal Metro chief Linda Wat­son, the fi­nal piece in what com­mu­nity lead­ers hope will be a team able to right the agency’s peren­ni­ally list­ing ship, will be paid as much as $256,500 in her first year year un­der a fiveyear con­tract ap­proved unan­i­mously by the board Mon­day.

That in­cludes $228,000 in salary and up to $28,500 in a per­for­mance bonus at the end of the first year, sub­ject to the board award­ing one to her. She will also get $25,000 in de­ferred com­pen­sa­tion for each of her first two years here, but not un­til the end of her sec­ond year, ac­cord­ing to the con­tract.

Wat­son, 57, has an­other few days to serve as the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer at the tran­sit agency in Or­lando, Fla., and will be­gin work here Aug. 16. Her hir­ing caps a year of change at the agency, trig­gered by a state law over­haul­ing the tran­sit board and the res­ig­na­tion last fall of em­bat­tled CEO Fred Gil­liam.

An eight-mem­ber board, for­ti­fied with state-man­dated fi­nan­cial and man­age­ment acu­men that the seven-mem­ber ver­sion pre­ced­ing it lacked, took over in Jan­uary. Af­ter

Con­tin­ued from A1 a na­tional search, the board in June chose Wat­son, who was an ex­ec­u­tive at the Fort Worth tran­sit agency and ran the Cor­pus Christi bus op­er­a­tion from 1996 to 2004. She has been in Or­lando since then and has re­ceived good marks for turn­ing around a trou­bled or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Wat­son will take over an agency that is still fight­ing its way out of a self-in­duced fis­cal hole and has feuded with its la­bor union and rid­ers with dis­abil­i­ties for the past sev­eral years.

“I’m very, very ex­cited about get­ting here and start­ing to work, meet­ing all of you and build­ing a fan­tas­tic sys­tem,” Wat­son told a packed meet­ing room at Cap­i­tal Metro head­quar­ters af­ter the vote.

Even be­fore that, how­ever, Wat­son got a pre­view of the of­ten bruis­ing na­ture of Cap­i­tal Metro pol­i­tics when Diane Bo­mar Ale­man, who heads the agency’s ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, spoke to the board. She urged Wat­son to use the bus sys­tem her­self so she could un­der­stand the chal­lenges reg­u­lar rid­ers face.

“I hope that she will be will­ing to work to neu­tral­ize … the cur­rent way that Cap­i­tal Metro staff has been deal­ing with the dis­abil­ity com­mu­nity,” Ale­man said.

Wat­son, ac­cord­ing to the con­tract, will be el­i­gi­ble for an­nual raises of up to 4 per­cent — about $9,000 based on the first-year salary — and bonuses of as much as 12.5 per­cent each year, at the dis­cre­tion of the board. She will also be re­im­bursed up to $3,000 a month for tem­po­rary liv­ing ex­penses for at least the next six months and up to $65,000 for ac­tual mov­ing ex­penses, in­clud­ing clos­ing costs on sell­ing her home in Or­lando (she has had no tak­ers so far, Wat­son said last week, in Florida’s de­pressed hous­ing mar­ket) and for any pur­chase of a home here.

In the short run, Wat­son will live in a down­town condo — she signed a rental agree­ment Mon­day morn­ing — that she said has a handy stop with three bus routes. Asked at a news con­fer­ence how she could per­suade ev­ery­one to try tran­sit, she said that move wasn’t a re­al­is­tic goal.

“There are a group of peo­ple who never ride the bus be­cause it doesn’t fit their needs, or for what­ever rea­son,” Wat­son said. “And that’s OK.”

Her job, she said, is to cre­ate the best sys­tem pos­si­ble for cur­rent rid­ers and in­duce more peo­ple to make tran­sit Other Austin-area govern­ment lead­ers:

Marc Ott, City of Austin city man­ager (11,880 em­ploy­ees, $3.5 bil­lion op­er­at­ing and cap­i­tal bud­get): $281,445

Meria Carstarphen, Austin In­de­pen­dent School District su­per­in­ten­dent (12,000 em­ploy­ees, $928 mil­lion op­er­at­ing bud­get): $302,000 **

Tom Ma­son, Lower Colorado River Author­ity gen­eral man­ager (2,235 em­ploy­ees, $1.65 bil­lion op­er­at­ing and cap­i­tal bud­get): $410,000 their choice.

Wat­son was mak­ing $178,000 in an­nual salary and other com­pen­sa­tion at the Cen­tral Florida Re­gional Trans­porta­tion Author­ity.

She re­places in­terim CEO Doug Allen, who was mak­ing $200,347 a year with $27,320 in de­ferred com­pen­sa­tion and a $7,200-a-year car al­lowance, for a to­tal of $234,867. Allen had held that tem­po­rary post since Gil­liam re­tired. Gil­liam was mak­ing $238,000 in salary his last year and $65,000 in de­ferred com­pen­sa­tion, a to­tal of $303,000.

ri­cardo B. Brazz­iell

Linda Wat­son, the new CEO of Cap­i­tal Metro, will start her job of turn­ing around the strug­gling tran­sit agency on Aug. 16.

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