Jan. 24--Metropolitan Transit Authority directors Thursday voted to open negotiations with the agency's interim president and CEO Tom Lambert to make his position permanent.
Lambert has headed the agency since January 2013, replacing former CEO George Greanias. Lambert, 60, joined the department as a security investigator in 1979 and since has served as police chief, senior vice president and chief administrative officer and executive vice president.
METRO oversees operations of a multi-faceted transit network consisting of buses, light rail, park-and-ride facilities and HOV/HOT lanes sprawling over a 1,285-square-mile jurisdiction.
Doing 'the right thing'
Board members unanimously voted to begin talks with Lambert, who currently earns $235,000 a year.
"Sometimes you just have to do the right thing," METRO board chairman Gilbert Garcia said.
When named interim president, Lambert said he did not aspire to hold the job permanently.
"What I said," he recalled Thursday, "was that I would serve as long as the board desired."
Garcia acknowledged that board members originally had anticipated filling the job with an outside candidate. Lambert, though, has done a "dynamite job," he said.
He said the agency had reached an agreement to settle its account with an executive search firm by paying one-third of the designated fee.
Lambert, a Houston native, began his career as an Austin police patrolman. His law enforcement career ended 31 years later when he entered METRO management. He holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Houston.
Public relations pro
Board member Burt Ballanfant lauded Lambert for his skill in working with the public.
"There's been a lot of controversy about METRO," he said. "People who complained to me during the first two or three years I've been on the board came to me in the past year to say that after working with Lambert they had had their best experience with METRO in a long time. They thought METRO would be wise to retain him."
In December, the transit agency opened its Red Line Line extension from the University of Houston-Downtown to a transit center near Loop 610. The project, the first rail extension in a decade, added 5.3 miles and eight stops. East and Southeast lines, scheduled to go into operation this year, are 90 percent complete and will add about 10 miles and 16 stops to the system, officials said Thursday.
Copyright 2014 - Houston Chronicle