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Port Authority chief still in running for Atlanta post
Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Port Authority board Chairman John A. Brooks is doubtful CEO Steve Bland would leave for a similar job in Atlanta, where he is one of two finalists to run the country's ninth-largest public transit system.

But despite the fact that people close to Mr. Bland note that he did not seek out the Atlanta position -- or a top transit post in Jacksonville, Fla., for which he is also a candidate -- the truth is that Mr. Bland hasn't taken himself out of the running, either.

"We thought all the candidates certainly expressed interest in the position otherwise they wouldn't have been here," Charles N. Pursley Jr., general counsel for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, said Monday.

Mr. Pursley said all seven short-list candidates, including Mr. Bland, had traveled to Atlanta for an interview before the list was pared to two, who will be announced Wednesday.

He said MARTA hopes to make a decision by its Oct. 9 board meeting or sooner.

Mr. Bland has been Port Authority CEO since June 2006. He signed a new contract last year that runs to June 2014. He makes $185,000 a year. The current general manager/CEO of MARTA earns $315,000. The head of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority makes $280,000.

Balanced against a potentially large bump up salary are family dynamics that might keep Mr. Bland here. He has a teenager in high school who he might be reluctant to move, and his wife's family lives in Butler County, said Mr. Brooks and board vice chairman Guy A. Mattola.

Other factors that might come into play are how much autonomy Mr. Bland would enjoy in Atlanta compared with Allegheny County and if county Executive Rich Fitzgerald wants him to stay.

In May, Mr. Fitzgerald threatened "top to bottom" changes at Port Authority if service did not improve following missed trips and major delays on the light rail transit system during a weekend featuring a Pirates game, the Pittsburgh marathon and a concert at Stage AE. Mr. Fitzgerald's spokeswoman, Amie Downs, said her boss does not comment on personnel matters. That hiccup aside, Mr. Mattola said he had no indication Mr. Fitzgerald was trying to push Mr. Bland out the door.

"If Steve felt that he was on the block or that there was somebody in the wings ready to replace him or there was some thought about him being replaced, I think he would seriously consider taking the [Atlanta] position," Mr. Mattola said.

Mr. Brooks said the board fully supports Mr. Bland and has no desire to see him leave.

Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962.

First published on September 18, 2012 at 12:00 am
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