MBTA Getting Interim General Manager While Healey Mulls Choice

Steve Poftak's departure cleared the way for Gov.-elect Maura Healey to select her own MBTA chief

While the MBTA awaits its next leader, it will be back in the hands of a deputy.

Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville will return to the role of interim general manager on Wednesday, Jan. 4, Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler announced Thursday. He was the agency's interim leader in 2018, before Steve Poftak took over.

In a statement, Tessler called Gonneville, who's been at the agency for more than two decades, "a seasoned leader and has vast knowledge of all aspects of the T, from budgeting to service to capital investments."

Poftak is stepping down from the embattled agency on Jan. 3. His departure cleared the way for Gov.-elect Maura Healey to select her own MBTA chief.

Changes are coming to the MBTA, but whether they lead to a better future remains to be seen.

Healey recently said she'd be choosing someone with experience in transit operations. Asked during a live interview on GBH News's "Boston Public Radio" about her approach to addressing myriad problems at the T, Healey, who has yet to make any appointments to top transportation jobs, said her focus is on building out her team.

"We've looked at some candidates. We're doing a worldwide search to make sure that we are bringing to town the best possible candidate to be the next general manager. That person is going to have transit experience, they're going to have operations experience, and they're going to understand that right now, we've got a real workforce challenge when it comes to the T," Healey said. "The T needs workers, and so we're going to make sure that we have the right GM in place."

The governor-elect said she also plans to appoint a "transportation safety chief" who will be "responsible for making sure that everything is inspected." The MBTA currently employs Ron Ester as chief safety officer, but Healey said of the position she's proposing, "We've never had this before."

She linked improvements at the MBTA to the region's economic health and its response to climate change, arguing as others have before her that it will be difficult to convince people to move away from cars if the system is not safe, reliable and affordable.

NBC/State House News Service
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