The next president and chief executive officer of Capital Metro will be paid a salary of $285,000 a year, the transit board decided Monday.
Under the five-year contract, Randy Clarke also will be paid deferred compensation of $25,000 a year and will be eligible each year, subject to the board’s evaluation of his performance, for a raise in his base pay and a bonus of up to 10 percent.
He will get a temporary housing allowance of $3,500 a month for up to six months, plus five weeks of vacation. Clarke, who has been a regular transit user for 15 years and plans to continue that practice here, will not get any sort of car allowance under the contract.
He and his wife, Kimberley Sweeney, who plan to live in downtown Austin initially, are expected to move here in a few weeks with Cheddar, their golden retriever. Clarke is currently a vice president with the American Public Transportation Association in Washington.
Clarke’s first day at Capital Metro will be in early March. But he met Monday with Capital Metro employees shortly after the agency board approved his contract.
“What really intrigues me about this position is Austin itself, the amazing spirit of innovation,” Clarke said in a brief news conference. “But also a deep sense of community, of knowing and looking out for each other.”
Clarke will immediately face the agency’s challenge with ridership, which was flat in 2017 after falling for several years in a row. The percentage of Austinites using transit, in a rapidly growing region, has fallen even faster than the raw numbers of boardings.
“Ridership is one metric, but it doesn’t mean it’s the only metric,” Clarke said. “Connecting someone to health care, or education or a job, to me, is much more valuable. That’s something the whole industry is struggling with: How do we better define our business model, and the value of community versus ridership?”
The eight-member board, which on Jan. 12 chose Clarke from among four finalists, voted unanimously Monday to approve the 13-page employment agreement.
Clarke, 40, joined the Washington transit trade group in 2016 and before that served as deputy chief operating officer and assistant general manager for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston.
That agency has a large rail system. Austin, meanwhile, has twice rejected light rail plans in elections, and Capital Metro operates only a single commuter rail line between downtown and Leander. Clarke was asked what his plans are in that arena.
“It’s not the CEO that’s deciding to expand rail or building rail. It’s the community,” he said. “Rail certainly could be a possibility in the future. To me, it’s not how do we expand rail? It’s how we provide the best mobility service for everyone. And not everyone needs the same technology or the same solution.”
Clarke will succeed Linda Watson, who had been Capital Metro’s president and chief executive officer since 2010. Watson retired at the end of the year. Her deputy, Elaine Timbes, has been interim president and CEO since then.
Watson’s final salary was $305,533. With deferred compensation and a bonus the board awarded her in December, Watson made a total of $363,900 in her last year leading the agency.
Clarke will take over an agency with 350 employees and hundreds more drivers and mechanics working for outside contractors, 80 or so bus routes, a commuter rail line and door-to-door services for people with qualifying disabilities. Capital Metro’s average daily ridership last year was about 83,000, and it has a combined operating and capital budget of $413.9 million for the fiscal year ending in September.
Clarke said Monday that now that his contract is nailed down — and, by day’s end, he hoped to finalize an apartment lease — he plans to begin talking to as many elected officials and community leaders as possible, including incoming Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk from Minneapolis. Cronk’s move to Austin has been delayed by a certain athletic contest taking place in the Twin Cities this weekend.
“He’s someone that I certainly have a significant interest in meeting, spending some time with,” Clarke said. “He’s coming from out of town just like I am. We’re a very similar age. But he’s a little busy with the Super Bowl right now.”