After 15 years leading the San Mateo County Transit District, CEO Mike Scanlon is moving on.
Scanlon, 67, informed the SamTrans Board of Directors on Wednesday he is retiring, ending a nearly 50-year public transportation career.
In his written notice of intent to Chair Jeff Gee and the board, Scanlon called his 15 years with the agency “challenging, fulfilling and fundamentally enjoyable.” Stepping down, he wrote, “will be difficult for me.”
Scanlon would not do interviews on the subject of his retirement and future plans, according to SamTrans staff.
In his letter, Scanlon did not indicate a specific departure date although it will be on a date in the “not-too-distant future” mutually agreeable with the board. SamTrans Communications Manager Jayme Ackemann said it will likely be tied to the timeline for recruiting his replacement. The board is currently forming a hiring committee to begin the process.
Scanlon joined the district in 1999 as the general manager/chief executive officer of SamTrans, executive director of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Authority, which oversees Caltrain, and executive director of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority.
During Scanlon’s tenure, Caltrain’s ridership and farebox revenue nearly tripled, SamTrans added new bus services and the district implemented efficiencies to remain stable during the recession, according to the district’s announcement of his pending retirement.
The board urged Scanlon to stay on board for the next few years, according to Gee.
“We are sad to see him go,” Gee said in a prepared statement calling his retirement is “well and entirely earned.”
With Scanlon at the helm, voters reauthorized the Transportation Authority’s half-cent sales tax and Caltrain is working toward becoming electrified.
State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who helped choose Scanlon while sitting on the SamTrans and Caltrain boards, said he was instrumental in the creation of Caltrain’s baby bullet express service and turning SamTrans into an important piece of Peninsula transportation.
Caltrain Board Chair Tom Nolan echoed the sentiment.
“Mike understood the intrinsic possibilities of this 150-year-old rail corridor and has led the effort to secure funding for its reinvention and long-term future,” Nolan said in a prepared statement.
But Scanlon’s time at SamTrans was not without its bumps. During the recession, financial straits led to fee hikes, station closures and scrapping the annual holiday train, which later returned. In 2011, in response to some public outcry over collecting a $400,000 compensation package while the three agencies he headed struggled financially, Scanlon offered to give a portion back. Bay Area Rapid Transit threatened to sue SamTrans over its refusal to pay operational costs for the SFO/Millbrae extension since its 2003 opening although an infusion of Measure A funds ended the dispute. SamTrans had protested paying the costs, saying BART’s billing used outdated ridership estimates.
Most recently, the District Attorney’s Office investigated SamTrans’ finances after two former employees claimed the agency purposely altered its books to justify seeking more taxpayer money. This month, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe closed the case, saying there was no evidence of wrongdoing although the district’s accounting practices fell short of generally used practices. Ackemann said at the time of Wagstaffe’s announcement that improvements had been already implemented.
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