San Mateo County Transit District Names New Transit Chief

March 12, 2015
Jim Hartnett, veteran transportation and community leader, was unanimously appointed to head the San Mateo County Transit District, an independent and consolidated public agency.

Jim Hartnett, veteran transportation and community leader, was unanimously appointed to head the San Mateo County Transit District, an independent and consolidated public agency that includes the SamTrans bus and paratransit system, the Caltrain Peninsula commuter rail service and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, which funds transit and transportation programs.

Hartnett will be the general manager and chief executive officer of the District, a job that carries with it the titles of general manager/CEO of SamTrans, executive director of Caltrain and executive director of the Transportation Authority.

Her starts his new job on March 30.

Hartnett, a Redwood City resident, served more than a decade on both the District and the Caltrain boards of directors and has served both boards as chair. He was appointed four years ago to the California High Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors, where he served most recently as vice chair. He has resigned from that board. He served 15 years on the Redwood City City Council, including terms as mayor and vice mayor.

He replaces Michael J. Scanlon, who is retiring after a distinguished career in the transit industry, which includes running the District for more than 15 years.

“The selection committee, reflecting the stakeholders of San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties, agreed: Jim has the skills and experience we need right now for this job,” said Jeff Gee, who chaired the SamTrans search committee that unanimously recommended Hartnett to the full SamTrans board.

“This is personal for me,” said Hartnett. “I grew up on the Peninsula. I rode the bus before there was a SamTrans. I rode the train before there was a Caltrain. I believe in what transit can do to make a better life for all of us and to preserve those things we so deeply value and treasure about living and working here. I understand the important role our bus and train systems play in maintaining our quality of life and sustaining the economic vitality of our region.”

Added Hartnett: “These three agencies are doing outstanding work and their combined talents comprise a team of well-respected employees who are working together to achieve the region’s transportation vision. I’m privileged to have the opportunity to serve at this extremely important time and I appreciate the confidence and trust that has been placed in me.”

The District serves three counties, 35 cities and millions of residents and commuters. Combined, the three agencies have budgets of more than $500 million, capital projects well in excess of $1.7 billion and engage more than 1,500 full-time, part-time and contracted employees.

Added Gee: “This is an extraordinarily complex job. Leading this multi-agency organization requires more than knowledge about transit and transportation, it requires an individual who understands how to strengthen and maintain the relationships and partnerships essential for success.

“Jim has the highest level of understanding of these three agencies and the communities they serve, along with local, regional, national, and international transit experience.  He is a proven Bay Area leader who knows how to collaborate and build consensus,” Gee said.

SamTrans Board Chair Shirley Harris, also a member of the search committee, said, “We were fortunate to have several well-qualified candidates.  But Jim had the strongest knowledge of SamTrans and its multi-agency responsibilities as evidenced by having served as chair of the Board of Directors of SamTrans and Caltrain JPB, and Vice Chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority. Jim possesses strong leadership skills, a passion to serve the community, a keen understanding of public policy and familiarity with stakeholders and the political landscape of the region.”

Hartnett’s appointment is the result of a nationwide recruitment that took more than six months and included consideration of more than 200 applicants.

The search committee included:

  • Redwood City Mayor Jeff Gee, chair of the search effort, who serves on both the SamTrans and Caltrain boards
  • Shirley Harris, the current SamTrans board chair
  • San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, who serves on both the SamTrans and Caltrain boards
  • South San Francisco City Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto, who serves on both the SamTrans and TA boards
  • San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors Chairman Tom Nolan, member of the Caltrain board representing San Francisco
  • San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra, member of the Caltrain board representing Santa Clara County
  • Also serving as ex officio, non-voting members were SFMTA General Manager Ed Reiskin and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority General Manager Nuria Fernandez

The committee unanimously recommended Hartnett to the district board.