cap Metro chief to begin with pay of up to $256,500
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.
Linda Watson, the new CEO of Capital Metro, will start her job of turning around the struggling transit agency on Aug. 16.