Our Views: CATS leader has big job

Robert Mirabito has his work cut out for him as the new interim chief executive officer of the Capital Area Transit System, or CATS, Baton Rouge’s public transit system.

Mirabito, who has no previous professional experience in mass transit, replaces Brian Marshall, who resigned amid complaints that CATS was moving too slowly in making improvements that were promised after voters approved a 10.6-mill property tax for CATS last April.

Marshall worked on a month-to-month contract for CATS, which didn’t suggest he enjoyed the confidence of the CATS board that hired him. That tentative arrangement no doubt played a role in Marshall’s inability to drive change at the agency, which needs bold reinvention.

Mirabito’s status as an interim manager promises to continue an image of provisional leadership at CATS, which could be a problem in improving service there.

But Mirabito has a big incentive to do well. The CATS boards plans to name a permanent CEO within nine months. Mirabito could get the job for keeps if he can demonstrate solid progress. In a sense, the next nine months are his audition as the leader of mass transit in Baton Rouge.

“Riders want their buses to run on time, they want to know when the bus is going to be at their stop, and they want a clean bus with a courteous bus driver,” Mirabito said. “That lays out exactly what needs to be done.”

We admire those goals, and we wish Mirabito well in accomplishing them. Given his unusual résumé to run a large bus service, we hope that Mirabito has a short learning curve.

His background is in health care, telecommunications and Internet services, not mass transit.

We suggest, at the very least, that Mirabito bring a spirit of transparency to CATS – and that he urge the CATS board to act accordingly.

The CATS board hired Mirabito after interviewing its top two finalists behind closed doors, which is no way to build public confidence in the agency’s work.

The voters who approved new tax dollars for CATS were told they’d get a dramatically improved transit service. Now, it’s up to Mirabito to deliver.