Photo on Flickr by SOCIALisBETTER

Mayor Gray has engaged an executive search firm to recruit a new DDOT Director. While Gray and his transportation chairs have expressed a desire for world-class candidates, the job description recently posted seems to slant toward long-time, more conventional transportation administrators.

It may just be that the job description doesn’t fully reflect what Gray is looking for. The description of the department certainly does portray a more progressive agency:

The Department is committed to achieving an exceptional quality of life in the nation’s capital through sustainable travel practices, safer streets and outstanding management of the movement of people and goods by all modes of transportation, including motor vehicles, mass transit, bicycles, and pedestrians.

However, the qualifications section is more troubling:

  • Mastery experience and extensive knowledge of surface transportation programs such as the Federal-aid highway program, highway safety, bridges, planning and environment design, civil rights, infrastructure, ITS/transportation management, highway financing, and technology transfer systems;
  • Extensive experience with or knowledge of budget development and management;
  • Demonstrated ability to work with consumers, professional and voluntary associations and advocate groups on fostering and accomplishing strategic goals supported by state-of-the-art technology;
  • Mastery of communications, both orally and in writing;
  • Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field of study (e.g. public policy, urban planning and development, business, law, public administration, or related field);
  • Must become a resident of the District of Columbia.

The job requirements focus on managing highway construction programs, but make no mention of managing a transit system. That will be a vital responsibility for an agency that runs the most successful bus system in the region and will launch a streetcar system on the next director’s watch.

Neither is there any mention of the need to understand the relationship between transportation infrastructure and land use. That is a key distinction between progressive and old-school DOT heads.

Perhaps it’s a nitpick, but the exclusion of folks who pursued liberal arts educations as undergraduates is also odd.  It seems to unnecessarily exclude folks who may be more creative and open to new ideas. Yet, one of the requirements does just that.

It seems unlikely that Gabe Klein would have make this cut. Based on statements from Gray officials when eliminating the unified fund, it appears that Gray wants someone who will focus a lot more on dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

That’s not a bad thing, and certainly doesn’t mean the person will push the department just to build projects based on vehicular Level of Service models while ignoring multimodalism, land use, and community engagement. However, the job description also doesn’t seem written optimally to attract candidates who are solid on the financial side but whose main strengths lie in bringing innovative programs to fruition.

The person heading up the executive search, Robert Clayton, has no experience with transportation or planning, but focuses on law, higher education and athletics.  From one of the emails in his search, he touts his friendship with Mayor Gray.

I have been engaged to conduct the search for the new Director of Transportation to join the Administration of my good friend Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray. I have attached the Position Announcement. Please forward to interested colleagues and APTA members. Best, Robert Clayton

Privately, Gray and his transportation transition leaders, Tom Downs and Cell Bernardino, have assured advocates that they’re not interested in the kind of director who ignores transit, pedestrians and bikes. To pick a great director, though, they’ll still need to have a great candidate decide to apply and get past the search firm.

The full position description can be viewed here.

Tagged: dc, ddot, gabe klein

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son.  Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America.