CATS draws 10 interim CEO applicants

‘Dynamic’ temporary chief sought

Ten people have applied for the temporary position to lead the Capital Area Transit System, including former CATS employees, a 2012 Baton Rouge mayoral candidate and the former general manager of the New Orleans bus system.

Brian Marshall, the embattled CEO hired in 2009, resigned in April from the agency, which provides bus services in the parish. He had faced mounting public criticism for not moving quickly enough to meet service goals promised in a 2012 tax election.

CATS Board President Isaiah Marshall, no relation to Brian Marshall, has since said the agency will hire a temporary CEO for the next six to nine months to lead the agency while it conducts a national search for a permanent leader.

He stressed that the interim leader needs to be “dynamic” because the next year will be pivotal for CATS as it ushers in a series of changes that include new routes, shorter wait times and improved bus stop shelters. CATS has promised to deliver the changes by the first quarter of 2014.

Marshall has also said the temporary leader could ultimately be retained as the permanent CEO.

The ré sumé s were due May 17 and an interim CEO will be selected May 30.

Many of the applicants lacked transportation experience but are community business leaders.

The applicants include entrepreneur John Conroy, who announced he was running for mayor-president last year but dropped out of the race before qualifying.

Conroy, founder of Pestop Baton Rouge, a do-it-yourself pest control store, said a business leader is needed to get CATS on the right path.

“Mr. (Brian) Marshall had vast experience in transportation and look how well that worked out,” said Conroy, who also has a background in health care management. “You need a business skill set. It shouldn’t be run like a government agency anymore. ”

Conroy said he was “adamantly opposed” to the 10.6-mill property tax in last year’s election, because the agency did not have a properly developed plan.

Bob Breaux, another applicant, also said he voted against the CATS tax last year, but wants to ensure the tax money is now used properly to deliver a better bus system.

Breaux has served as director of the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, the City of Central Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge — which formed last year to serve smaller businesses they felt were being neglected by BRAC.

He served as both the permanent CEO of his own computer systems company, and as an interim leader for Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations during that organization’s search for a permanent leader.

Conroy and Breaux said they were approached by CATS board members to apply.

William DeVille is the applicant with the most experience running a public transportation agency. He has 30 years of transit experience, including 18 years at the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority.

DeVille was promoted to NORTA’s general manager in 2002, running an agency with 400 buses, 65 street cars, and 1,350 employees, according to his résumé.

But four years later, he was demoted. Four months after the demotion, he was fired by the agency’s board for signing contracts without their approval, according to reports in The Times-Picayune.

Three applicants — Jere T. Quinn Sr., Vanisia Thomas-Winston and Shelly Francis — have worked with CATS previously. Quinn, CATS director of operations training and bus service management, is the only one who currently works there.

Francis said she worked at CATS for 28 years starting as a bus operator, and gradually working her way up to terminal manager.

“They need someone reliable,” she said. “Someone who can meet the needs of the public and really knows transit and the operations.”

Isaiah Marshall said interviews with applicants will be open to the public and the full board will be invited to ask questions. He also said that no additional candidates would be considered for the interim position.