TAMPA — HART’s board on Monday named Chief Operating Officer Katharine Eagan, 40, as interim chief executive officer to replace Philip Hale, who is retiring by month’s end.
Transit board members said a search for a full-time director likely would not begin until autumn after a countywide transportation advisory group offers recommendations that could restructure HART’s board and dramatically alter the transit agency’s role, to possibly include an economic development focus.
Board members reasoned strong candidates from across the nation were unlikely to be interested in HART’s top position without knowing new expectations beyond fundamental transit operations and how HART’s board would be constituted.
“If you are going to lead the agency, you will want to be clear on where we are going,” board chairman and Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez said.
Suarez pointed out it’s likely a new HART chief executive will be needed to be paid a lot more than Hale’s $150,000 annual salary, perhaps as much as $250,000 for a top notch person.
The board promoted Hale three years ago after it fired Chief Executive David Armijo who became entangled in a volatile personnel issue, not uncommon in HART’s history.
Eagan, who makes $141,000 annually, was manager of service planning for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit between 2000 and 2007 and director of service development for the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore from 2007 to 2009 before coming to HART.
HART’s long-term direction and the board’s expectations of its next chief executive are expected to be affected by the outcome of the county advisory committee, which includes county commissioners and mayors of three cities who have met for nearly a year to discuss an ambitious new role for HART.
Some have said they hope a newly constituted HART board and vision would lead to innovative transit solutions, including more regional service.
However, what must be determined is how to alter HART’s financial bottom line to achieve transit improvements guided by a new vision and how to recruit and pay for new staff expertise capable of handling expanded roles beyond fundamentally operating a bus system.
“A lot of people have a vision of what they would like to do with transportation in Tampa Bay,” Hale said. “But in my experience I haven’t met a lot with experience in transit.”