Wanted: Experienced MBTA GM with ‘strong commitment to safety’

The executive search firm hired by Gov. Maura Healey to find the next MBTA general manager distributed a listing for the position, which was posted on several national job boards aimed at the transit industry.

A job description posted Wednesday states Krauthamer & Associates is seeking candidates with at least 10 years of “executive management experience with a transit agency or another public or private entity of significant complexity or size.”

“This individual will be responsible for the overall operations and day-to-day administration of the MBTA and will prioritize the reliability, safety and on-time performance of bus, train and commuter rail services for MBTA ridership while ensuring a ‘state of good repair’ and the delivery of capital maintenance and modernization projects,” the job description states.

This seems to draw from the findings of the Federal Transit Administration’s safety management inspection report, which concluded after a months-long investigation that the MBTA was prioritizing capital projects at the expense of day-to-day operations and maintenance.

In the report, the feds said this lack of balance was at the center of many of the MBTA’s safety challenges. The FTA also pointed out the agency’s lax safety culture, an area the job description indicates would be a priority for the next GM.

“The next GM/CEO will have the proven ability to build, transform and lead high-performing teams while instilling a positive organizational culture that is committed to delivering safe, affordable, equitable and dependable operational service,” the job description states.

It went on to add that the next MBTA leader will have a “strong commitment to safety and excellent operational service delivery.”

The job description is available on at least three job sites with national and international reach, particularly in Canada: TransitTalent, American Public Transportation Association, and Advancing Women in Transportation.

Healey has remained largely mum on the search for a new MBTA general manager, since announcing late last month that she had hired K&A to conduct a “worldwide” hunt.

At the time, she said her aim was to make a selection within weeks, rather than several months. Healey’s office declined to provide an updated timeline to the Herald on Wednesday.

“The GM search remains ongoing,” said Karissa Hand, Healey’s press secretary. “We are working quickly and diligently to fill this position as soon as possible.”

Steve Poftak, who was appointed general manager by former Gov. Charlie Baker in 2019, stepped down on Jan. 3. The outgoing Baker administration appointed then-Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville as interim GM in late December.

Stacy Thompson, executive director of LivableStreets, a transit advocacy group, said Healey’s camp has been “pretty tight-lipped” on the search for a permanent MBTA leader, as she has been with her cabinet secretary appointments.

But Thompson said the governor’s decision to hire an outside firm to conduct the search seems to indicate Healey is looking for someone from outside Massachusetts to lead the MBTA.

She said Healey is “casting a wide net” and looking for a skilled professional. While there have been rumors about potential contenders, she said, “no one who is speaking publicly about this is close enough to the search process to know what’s going on.”

Among the rumors, one name seems to be making the rounds the most, according to multiple sources, who all reported hearing Rick Leary, CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission since 2017, come up in conversations about the next general manager.

According to his Linkedin profile, he worked in leadership roles with the MBTA for 25 years, the last four of which were spent in an executive capacity, as chief operating officer from 2005-09.

Leary heads a “well-regarded” transit system in Toronto, and has experience in Boston, one source said about his appeal.

“I’ve heard his name thrown around a lot,” Thompson said. “People are speculating about him, but I have no idea if that’s rooted in reality or not.”

Thompson pointed out that Monica Tibbits-Nutt was also brought up a lot in past discussions about potential GM candidates, but she’s since been appointed as Healey’s undersecretary of transportation.

“It’s hard to say how many of these names being thrown out are wishful thinking,” Thompson said. “If you’re looking for someone with a ton of expertise and someone with previous experience of the MBTA, Rick Leary would be an obvious choice to talk to or at least reach out to.”