In nine days, Jay Walder will leave his post as MTA Chair and CEO as he readies to depart for Hong Kong, and despite the looming resignation, all has been quiet from Albany on his potential replacement. Yesterday, I reported that Joseph Lhota may be the leading candidate, and today, the Daily News echos my scoop while adding Neil Peterson, Thomas Prendergast, Nuria Fernandez, Daniel Grabauskas and Karen Rae to the list of candidates. The outlook for the nomination remains hazy, but we do however have an inkling of who will replace Walder in the short term. According to a New York 1 report, current MTA Vice Chairman Andrew Saul will serve as interim chair as the search for a permanent replacement continues.
As interim heads go, Saul is the safest of safe choices and one primed for the moment. Named to the MTA Board by Pataki, he has served the Authority since 1996. He is a member of every committee, and with an extensive background in retail and private equity, he is the chair of the MTA’s finance committee. He also sits on a number of other boards, including the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and UPENN’s Wharton School.
In the immediate few weeks, Saul will have to continue to lobby for a resolution to the MTA’s $10 billion capital budget gap, and according to NY1, Saul will “likely follow in the same policy path” as Walder. It offers some stability for the MTA, but still, with another interim head preceding a new permanent CEO and Chair, the MTA is guaranteed to run through six chairmen or women in as many years. For an organization as vital yet on shaky financial footing as the MTA, such turmoil at the top isn’t helping in the long- or short-term.