WMATA announces retirement of General Manager/CEO Wiedefeld

Jan. 19, 2022
The board will conduct a national search for Wiedefeld’s replacement and will discuss succession planning publicly at the board’s meeting on Feb. 10.

Paul J. Wiedefeld, the current general manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), gave his notice to the board that he will retire from his position in six months after serving more than six years at the helm of the agency.  

“Forty plus years in transportation teaches you that there is no set mile marker for this decision, but given the seismic shifts happening in transit and the region, Metro needs a leader who can commit to several years of service and set a new course,” Wiedefeld said. “This gives the board time to identify a successor and ensures an orderly management transition. During this period of transition, I will continue to advance several major priorities, including opening the Silver Line extension, moving Metro’s headquarters to provide a safe work environment for employees and restoring full rail and bus service for customers.”  

Wiedefeld was hired in November 2015 during a particularly difficult time in the agency’s history. He is widely credited with improving rail safety and reliability through SafeTrack, securing dedicated funding, developing one of the transit industry’s largest ($2 billion annual) capital programs to restore the system to a state of good repair and steering the agency through the pandemic in partnership with labor leaders.  

“There is no doubt that Paul Wiedefeld was the right man at the right time to guide Metro out of very dark days,” said Board of Directors Chair Paul C. Smedberg. “Paul is an extraordinary executive and the board deeply appreciates his effective leadership and, most recently, his collaboration with us as we worked together to overcome an unprecedented set of challenges during the pandemic.”  

WMATA’s fiscal year ends on June 30, and the next budget for fiscal year 2023 takes effect July 1. An incoming chief executive will have an opportunity to work with the board on its months-long process to determine service levels, set fares and adopt a budget for fiscal year 2024.  

Smedberg said the board will conduct a national search for Wiedefeld’s replacement and will discuss succession planning publicly at the board’s meeting on Feb. 10. 

Industry reactions 

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement on Wiedefeld’s departure: 

“I want to thank Paul Wiedefeld for his service as general manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. When Paul came on board in November 2015, WMATA faced a number of serious challenges and he was the right person for the job at the right time. Under Paul’s leadership, WMATA has not only secured dedicated capital funding from local, state and federal governments, but has adeptly continued serving the DMV community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“As the WMATA Board of Directors searches for the next general manager and CEO, it must focus on finding candidates who are equally committed to maintaining transparency, cooperating with state, local and federal partners, and most importantly, prioritizing safety.” 

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 also issued a statement reflecting on its relationship with Wiedefeld over the last six years.  

“...We’re proud to say that over the last two years we have had a productive working relationship that has allowed us to resolve many of these disputes amicably before they rose to the level of open conflict. Working with GM Paul Wiedefeld, we were able to resolve the historic Cinder Bed Road strike and bring that garage back in-house to WMATA. We were able to implement policies during the COVID-19 pandemic that saved lives and helped protect WMATA workers and their families. We were able to agree to the framework of a collective bargaining agreement that protected our work from privatization.  

“...we’re confident in saying that the open line of communication that Paul Wiedefeld has maintained with us over the past two years has helped avoid problems and deliver better service to the riding public.  

“Over 8,000 of our WMATA members now look to the WMATA Board of Directors and urge them to find a suitable replacement for the outgoing general manager... The next few years ahead will be challenging, but we’re confident in saying that WMATA is a better system when it values and listens to the opinions of those that do the work that keeps this region moving.” 

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