LIRR Prez Williams named interim MTA CEOBy
Updated 5:36 p.m.: Tomorrow marks current MTA CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander’s last day on the job, and MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger has named Helena Williams, current president of the Long Island Rail Road, as the interim replacement.
Sander, who announced his resignation on May 7, is leaving at the firm request of David Paterson. The New York Governor used the recent MTA rescue package as leverage to exert more control over the financially beleaguered transit agency, and Sander, a Spitzer appointee but probably the most qualified authority head in its 41-year history, lost his job. Williams will assume the interim title on Monday, following MTA Board approval.
In taking on the job, Williams will also keep her duties as head of the LIRR. She is, however, looking forward to the challenge of leading the agency. “I am honored to be asked to step in temporarily – pending approval of the MTA Board – to serve in this position while continuing my duties as President of the LIRR,” Williams said via press release this afternoon. “As we all know, the subway, bus, bridge, tunnel and commuter rail systems are the lifeblood of our city and of the entire New York metropolitan region. I’ve spent much of my career at the MTA, so this will be an exciting challenge.
Williams, a labor lawyer with a degree from St. John’s, has been at the MTA for 15 years and has served as the head of both the Long Island Bus and LIRR. She also worked as the deputy county executive to Tom Suozzi in Nassau County. As the press release notes, the LIRR has flourished under her leadership with record on-time performance figures and better customer communications.
“This is a time of transition at the MTA, but it is critical that we continue to serve our customers without missing a beat,” H. Dale Hemmerdinger, current chairman of the MTA Board, said. “Helena Williams is doing a terrific job at the Long Island Rail Road and will be an excellent steward for the entire transit system until a new Chairman and CEO is appointed.”
Williams was the first female named to head to LIRR, and by assuming this new position, I believe she is the first lead the MTA as well. When Paterson names a successor, she will keep her job as president of the Long Island Rail Road.
Meanwhile, gov. Paterson is expected to name a permanent successor in the near future. Time is, however, of the essence. As The Times’ William Neuman reports, the Senate adjourns for the summer on June 22. If Paterson has not named a replacement by then, he will either have to summon the legislatures back for a special session or live with Williams as the interim head for a few months. His office declined to comment on the search, saying simply that they are looking for a candidate with “a mandate, a philosophy and a record of complete transparency and accountability to taxpayers.”