Sound Transit’s new CEO, Julie Timm, will take the reins of the nation’s largest transit expansion program Sept. 26 for a salary of $375,000 per year, board members decided Thursday.
The contract offer extends just over three years, until Dec. 31, 2025, with a one-year renewal option.
Timm currently leads the Greater Richmond Transit Company, a small agency serving 30,000 daily passengers in Virginia’s capital city, or slightly fewer than Everett-based Community Transit.
Sound Transit board members approved the contract offer 17-0.
While she has project-delivery experience, Timm’s strength in running daily transit services made her a clear choice, said board member Bruce Dammeier, the Pierce County executive.
“We are transitioning quickly from a capital program to an operating program,” he said. “We need a strong leader, and a leader who can bring people together and collaborate effectively with others.”
Before working in Richmond, Timm was involved with light rail in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and a transit ballot measure in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a big step up to lead Sound Transit’s $142 billion, 30-year finance plan to build and operate 12 megaprojects voters approved in 2016, or deal with public frustrations like Seattle’s broken downtown station escalators requiring a nine-year, $96 million replacement program.
She does bring superior personal skills, high curiosity, attention to social equity, and passion for public transit, according to Virginia transit supporters and Sound Transit officials who interviewed her. Timm stabilized ridership in Richmond despite the pandemic by making fares free, riding the buses herself, and keeping an “open-door policy” toward advocates, according to Virginia reports.
“I find her to be incredibly understanding of transit, and also to be incredibly understanding of the importance of the team she will be leading,” said board member Nancy Backus, mayor of Auburn.
Timm joined the meeting online, and said in a news release afterward:
“More than doubling the reach of light rail in the next few years represents a historic level of investment … We will keep these and further projects rolling through strong partnerships and innovative solutions that benefit our parents, our children, and our children’s children. It will not be easy or comfortable to complete this vision. I am truly humbled to become part of such a tremendous effort.”
The offer approved Thursday resembles pay and perks received by Peter Rogoff, who departed May 31 after serving since late 2015. Timm’s starting salary nearly matches Rogoff’s ending pay of $379,000.
Timm will also receive medical benefits, a $64,000 moving allowance, an $8,500 yearly allowance for routine business-related expenses, 35 paid days of personal time off per year, and retirement-fund contributions totaling 12% of salary plus $10,400 in 2022. And a free ORCA fare card that’s available to all employees. Her predecessors, Rogoff and Joni Earl, received many of the same perks.
The new CEO will also get a minimum 3.5% yearly pay raise assuming a successful performance rating, and the chance to win more.
Those yearly evaluations can be high-stress events, as was clear in 2018 when the board denied Rogoff a $31,290 performance bonus based on complaints about his abrasive management style, though he did receive a 5% inflation increase. Also, Rogoff voluntarily skipped his pay raise in 2021 amid news of a huge long-term budget shortfall, while Earl deferred a 2010 pay raise during the Great Recession.
Chief of staff Brooke Belman serves as interim CEO this summer.