Management & Operations

RTA, Calabrese agree to accelerate leadership transition

Posted on July 24, 2018

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority CEO/GM Joseph Calabrese (shown) at a 2017 rebranding event. Photo: GCRTA
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority CEO/GM Joseph Calabrese (shown) at a 2017 rebranding event. Photo: GCRTA
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Board of Trustees and CEO/GM Joseph A. Calabrese have reached an agreement to accelerate RTA’s executive leadership transition. After Sept. 1, 2018, Calabrese will serve RTA in a new senior advisory role as the board begins a national search for the agency’s next GM. Specifically:

  • Calabrese will continue serving as CEO/GM until Sept. 1
  • He will serve as Senior Advisor for Special Projects and Strategic Innovation in a full-time capacity between September 1, 2018 – February 28, 2019
  • He will advise RTA in this position on a part-time basis from March 1, 2019 – February 29, 2020

Board President Dennis Clough stressed that the decision was mutual and was not prompted by any single event.

“It’s the board’s responsibility to keep RTA’s big picture in focus. Joe announced his intention to retire in 2020, and we decided it would be best to speed up the transition to a new leader,” Clough said. “From an organizational standpoint, the board believes that this is the best strategy to ensure an orderly transition to new leadership, and Joe agreed. This decision will better position RTA for the future.”

Freed from the day-to-day responsibilities of running the large RTA operation, Calabrese will play a key role in important initiatives that are now launching or underway, Clough said, including:

  • The Cleveland State University study of RTA’s economic impact in the region
  • The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s operational audit, designed to help RTA learn both how it can save money and improve how it serves customers
  • Ongoing efforts to identify strategies and methods that lead to a well-funded public transit system, helping drive business and wealth in the region

In addition, Clough said the agency’s day-to-day operations will benefit from Calabrese’s deep transit industry experience as the search for a new GM unfolds. Calabrese has more than 43 years of experience in both the public and private sectors of the transit industry. He is the longest-serving GM in RTA history, and the longest-serving GM of any multi-modal transit system in the nation.

“Joe Calabrese has served RTA well. He led the agency through some tough times and won major awards and wide recognition for his efforts.” Clough said. “We thank him for his leadership and we look forward to working with him in his new advisory capacity.”

Trustees will name an interim GM to lead RTA when Calabrese assumes his new position in September. In his advisory role, Calabrese will report to the interim, and ultimately, to the next RTA GM.


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