Get our free newsletter

This week, NBC4 reporter Adam Tuss broke the news that Metro riders have long been waiting for: Who’s going to run the agency? Or, more precisely, who’s the Metro board’s best bet to make the transit system run more reliably with our hard-earned tax dollars?

His name is Neal Cohen, 55, and he lands from the world of aerospace and defense. Huh? Metro picked someone who’s worked with planes instead of trains? Maybe. Sources tell the Washington Post that the agency is still negotiating with Cohen over his compensation.

That said, City Desk has rounded up what we could find on Cohen, who, if confirmed, would replace current Metro Interim General Manager and CEO Jack Requa. (We’re really excited not to have to spell out that title for very much longer. Our fingers are thankful.)

What’s He Doing Now?

Cohen most recently served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Orbital ATK, a Virginia-based aerospace company that “designs, builds, and delivers space, defense, and aviation-related systems to customers around the world.” In non-corporate terms, that means it makes propulsion devices, satellites, and—get this—tactical missiles. (Clearly, Metro needs someone on the inside to bolster safety; the feds will be attempting that at the oversight level.) Cohen was responsible for “accounting and controls, treasury, tax, financial planning and analysis, internal audit, and investor relations,” according to a press release from 2012, when Orbital ATK hired him. He left the company in February of this year. In his role, Cohen made close to $3 million in compensation, financial records show.

What Did He Do Before?

Prior to joining the missile-making company, Cohen was president and chief operating officer of Laureate Education, an international for-profit university network, headquartered in Baltimore. When he started there in 2008, an announcement from Laureate said he would “play an important part in our international growth, particularly in Europe, the Middle East and soon in Asia as well.” Cohen previously served as an executive in various positions for Northwest Airlines over almost a decade at the firm. Before that, he was executive vice president and chief financial officer for then-US Airways (more airplanes!). He graduated from the University of Chicago.

What Will He Do for Metro?

That all depends on whether the negotiations with Metro go through. Cohen is sure to be asking for a lot given his previous experience and the public relations troubles facing the agency, but, then again, it did just award two consultancies a near-$3 million contract to get it into shape. (It helps when your operations are supported by the Tax Man.) Whoever takes the job will have to reassure people that it’s worth getting on Metrorail, especially as daily ridership has dropped five percent over the past five years. Could it be safe and reliable?

The man whom sources described to the Post as “quirky” and “an odd duck” might make it so. Although: “[Cohen] would call meetings for 7 o’clock at night and then go to the gym,” a former colleague told the paper. “He would show up for the meeting at 8, find everyone in the room waiting for him and just say, ‘Hey, what’s up?’”

Neal Cohen, you’re one of our only hopes.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery