The Healey Administration has announced its Secretary of Transportation will step down in the next two weeks, after less than nine full months on the job.
Gina Fiandaca, formerly a director in the Boston Parking Clerk’s office, was tapped by Gov. Maura Healey to lead the Department of Transportation and oversee the beleaguered MBTA in December, ahead of Healey’s swearing-in. She officially joined the administration at the end of January.
“Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca will be stepping down from her position effective September 11, 2023, and will remain in an advising role through the end of the year to support a smooth transition,” Healey’s office said in a Monday release.
Fiandaca is paid an annual salary of $181,722, according to state payroll records.
Fiandaca came to the job after serving more than four years as Assistant City Manager in Austin, Texas. She worked for former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s administration as commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department from January 2015 to April 2019.
Though the governor did not offer a reason for her leaving, Fiandaca’s sudden departure comes following May revelations that MassDOT awarded a no-bid contract worth $900,000 to a company affiliated with a personal associate of hers.
In an email obtained by the Herald and sent to MassDOT staff Monday morning, Fiandaca seemed to indicate the decision to leave was one she’d arrived at on her own.
“While I have enjoyed the challenges and responsibilities at MassDOT and the MBTA since January, I have come to a decision to leave my position on September 11, which will allow for a smooth transition,” she wrote, before ticking off several accomplishments made during her tenure.
“You and I know that the real work, the important work, is done day in and day out and not heralded and that is doing our jobs in public service. Public service is a noble career and all of us in government have the opportunity to help the members of the community daily,” she continued.
The current Undersecretary for Transportation, Monica Tibbits-Nutt, will assume the role of Acting Transportation Secretary while the Healey administration works to replace Fiandaca.
Tibbits-Nutt joined the administration in January after serving on the MassDOT Board of Directors and as the Vice-Chair of the Fiscal Management and Control Board, which oversaw the MBTA up until about two years ago.
With Tibbits-Nutt taking over the department in an acting capacity, MassDOT “could not ask for a cleaner transition,” said LivableStreets Alliance Executive Director Stacy Thompson.
“In any administration, there’s always the first secretary to go. So this just happens to be Gina Fiandaca,” Thompson told the Herald.
Tibbits-Nutt has been with the administration since day one and “already has all of the knowledge and context, Thompson said.
“You have someone who is not going to have a learning curve, who’s already literally in the building,” Thompson said. “[MBTA General Manager Phillip] Eng has had enough time to get up to speed, bring in his own leadership team. We have a safety chief. In terms of the team that needed to be built? Like they’re there. I mean, to a certain extent, the core of the organization will hold up just fine.”
Tibbits-Nutt is an “inspired choice” to take over the department, said MBTA Advisory Board Executive Director Brian Kane.
“Obviously, continuity is always preferable to a lack of continuity,” Kane told the Herald. “But I think the board is strong. Monica Tibbits-Nutt, as the undersecretary, has been involved likely on all the major decisions. She is a real pro.”
In announcing Fiandaca’s departure, Healey said the new acting secretary is prepared to take over MassDOT.
“We are confident that the Department of Transportation will be in good hands and well-positioned to continue this important work with Monica Tibbits-Nutt as Acting Secretary, as she has a deep knowledge of our transportation system and a commitment to public engagement and equity,” she said.
MassDOT oversees the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the state’s Highway, Aeronautics, Rail and Transit Divisions, as well as the MBTA.