Public transit GM Question of the Day: What is your succession plan?

Posted on May 5, 2015

For METRO's APTA 2015 Bus & Paratransit Conference Daily coverage, we asked some of the top public transit industry leaders in the nation to tell us about their agency's succession plan for our Question of the Day.

As a part of the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), Delaware Transit Corp. participates in an annual Leadership Academy. This five-week intensive program allows participants to learn the various aspects of DelDOT and offers the opportunity to shadow members of senior management. This year’s graduating class developed ‘Innovation Station,’ providing an avenue for employees to innovate, inspire and have an impact on the future of the organization by submitting ideas through the Think Tank Committee. Employees feel inspired that their ideas matter and this new program provides a pathway for their individual success, and ultimately, the success of DelDOT.
John Sisson, CEO
Delaware Transit Corp.
Wilmington, Del.

First, we have identified key positions and tried to figure out how we can formally encourage the kinds of cross-training and experience that would allow easier transitions when key personnel retire or leave their employment for other reasons. Second, our city allows double-filling for key positions, so we attempt to allow for several months of cross-training when a key person leaves. Finally, when our system receives a management performance review, as required by the State of Wisconsin every five years, part of the review involves looking at whether we have taken appropriate steps to ensure smooth succession for key positions.
Charles Kamp, GM
Metro Transit
Madison, Wis.

During the projected last year of employment, and in collaboration with the incumbent, Miami-Dade Transit establishes a budget overage position that is utilized to facilitate the recruitment and selection of designated successors. Upon selection, the appointed designee will have an approximate one-year period of mentoring while performing the duties of the incumbent. This level of strategic planning optimizes the effectiveness of the program, ensuring not only the transfer of institutional knowledge, but also the successor’s seamless transition into a new position. To date, the program has had merited success.
Ysela Llort, director
Miami-Dade Transit

We emphasize training, both in-house and through national and state partners. For example, three of our mechanics participate in a state-sponsored program that will earn them ASE certification and college credits. In Operations, we have six staff members who are state-certified trainers. We train outstanding, motivated drivers to be trainers for new operators or future roles as supervisors. We encourage supervisors and managers to expand their leadership skills through courses offered by NTI, TSI and ENO Foundation. A well-trained employee base provides potential candidates for leadership positions, but more importantly, provides stability in the event the organization needs to hire externally.
Steven L. Myers, transit director
Lee County Transit
Fort Myers, Fla.

  LANTA is in the position of having finished implementing its last succession plan. In the past three years, four of the six members of the senior management team retired. All four were replaced with internal candidates, as envisioned in our succession plan. We now have to plot our next succession plan to develop staff to back-fill vacated middle management roles. We also now have several millennials among our administrative staff; a completely new situation for LANTA. Our next succession plan needs to include a strategy to engage and develop them effectively.  
Owen P. O’Neil, executive director
Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority
Allentown, Pa.

The key to a strong succession plan is assuring that the younger leaders in our organization are exposed to as many different experiences as possible and not simply locked into the specific responsibilities of their given position. In this way, they are placed in a wide variety of situations in the agency, and we get to see them in different settings than their ‘Nine to five job.’ For instance, we’re often pleasantly surprised when someone whose job is purely analytical shows tremendous team building skills when thrust into that situation.
Stephen G. Bland, CEO
Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority
Nashville, Tenn.

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