Metro talks with Sar­les, 2 more for top job

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY ANN SCOTT TYSON

Metro In­terim Gen­eral Man­ager Richard Sar­les and two other can­di­dates — one with a tran­sit back­ground and one from the cor­po­rate sec­tor — were in­ter­viewed by Metro’s Board of Di­rec­tors on Satur­day as the search for a per­ma­nent gen­eral man­ager en­ters a new phase, ac­cord­ing to a source fa­mil­iar with the search.

Metro’s four-per­son search com­mit­tee, to­gether with an ex­ec­u­tive search firm, came up with a list of a cou­ple of dozen can­di­dates and nar­rowed it down to the three in­ter­viewed by the full board at a pri­vate lo­ca­tion.

“ The search for the next gen­eral man­ager is be­ing con­ducted by the Board of Di­rec­tors, and we have no com­ment,” Metro spokes­woman Lisa Farb­stein said.

Sar­les also de­clined to dis­cuss the search in a re­cent in­ter­view but said he had al­ways taken a long-term per­spec­tive on tack­ling Metro’s prob­lems since be­com­ing in­terim chief in April.

“I came as in­terim. The way I’ve acted is I’ll be here for­ever,” Sar­les said in an in­ter­view in his of­fice at Metro head­quar­ters. “ That’s the way I man­aged. I did not want to just sit here and be a care­taker. . . . Hope­fully no­body feels that I’ve done that.”

How the board will re­act to the can­di­dates is un­cer­tain, es­pe­cially given the ma­jor turnover un­der­way on the body that over­sees Metro.

Four mem­bers with many years of ex­pe­ri­ence on the board have al­ready left — Jim Gra­ham of the District, Chris Zim­mer­man of Ar­ling­ton County, Neil O. Al­bert of the District and Mar­cell Solomon of Prince Ge­orge’s County — and as many as four more of the cur­rent 14 mem­bers are likely to de­part soon, ac­cord­ing to board mem­bers.

As a re­sult, at least three new board mem­bers— Mary Hynes of Ar­ling­ton, Kathy Porter of Mary­land and Tommy Wells of the District— were in­volved in Satur­day’s gen­eral man­ager can­di­date in­ter­views and de­lib­er­a­tions.

Board Chair­man Peter Ben­jamin, who has led the search com­mit­tee, made it clear that who­ever is on the board at the time the se­lec­tion is made would have a voice in the de­ci­sion.

Fed­eral board mem­ber Mor­timer Downey, also a mem­ber of the search com­mit­tee, com­pared the board turnover to a “re­lay race.”

It is un­cer­tain whether the new and less-ex­pe­ri­ence board mem­bers will be more likely to go along with the opin­ion of the vet­eran mem­bers, or whether they will prove more as­sertive in the se­lec­tion, which could pos­si­bly slow the process.

“Sup­pos­ing the board mem­bers look at the can­di­dates that the search com­mit­tee presents and say ‘We like the the­ory, but we don’t like any of the peo­ple,’ then we would keep look­ing,” Ben­jamin said.

The board will have to come to an in­for­mal con­sen­sus on which can­di­date to se­lect be­fore a for­mal vote, Ben­jamin said.

Un­der Metro’s rules, one vot­ing mem­ber from Mary­land, Vir­ginia and the District as well as an­other board mem­ber must be present for that vote to take place.

tysona@wash­post.com

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