New permanent CEO brings years of experience to job
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
March 21 will mark the first day on the job for Kevin Desmond as the new CEO of TransLink.
Desmond will be the fourth person to hold the position in the past 16 months. Former CEO Ian Jarvis resigned during the 2015 plebiscite, and was followed by two interim CEO’s while the TransLink board of directors sought a new, permanent CEO.
Desmond has 12 years’ experience in managing King County Metro Transit (KCMT) in Seattle. In his time with KCMT, he oversaw four public transportation referendums. Three out of four succeeded. He also oversaw the installation of the ORCA Smart Card in 2009 (the KCMT equivalent of the Compass Card.)
Prior to KCMT, Desmond served as the chief of operations for the New York City Transit system.
The first task that Desmond will be undertaking upon his commencement will be trying to restore public trust in TransLink. He plans to accomplish this via an inquiry that will have him talking with those most pragmatically involved in operating TransLink.
“I understand TransLink has suffered a bruise to its brand and the last couple of years have been challenging …,” said Desmond during a news conference covered by the Vancouver Sun. “Restoring the public trust and confidence in the transportation system I believe to be number one.”
One of the largest public criticisms of TransLink regarded the high salaries earned by executives. Arguably, this led to the failure of the plebiscite, which would have introduced a 0.5 per cent sales tax in the Lower Mainland had it succeeded. Desmond will be receiving an annual salary of $365,000, significantly less than the salary of Jarvis, who made $468,000 in 2013.
“TransLink needs both a new leadership team and a new organizational culture,” said Jordan Bateman—who campaigned against last year’s plebiscite on behalf of the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation—to the Globe and Mail. “TransLink needs to be more customer-service focused but also aware of the fact that its shareholders—the taxpayers—are unhappy with the way it’s been run for a long time.”
Desmond’s arrival has been met with optimism from both municipal and the provincial government. Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson expressed his excitement for Desmond’s assistance in obtaining provincial and federal funding to build much-needed transit infrastructure in the Lower Mainland.
“I have confidence in the CEO and the team he has around him, and we are going to see the transportation needs for our communities and for each of us individually met,” said Peter Fassbender, transportation minister, to the Vancouver Sun.