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The Metro board would have asked John Catoe to stay—but he didn’t give them the chance.
“One thing about John is he’s very frank. And he is fair,” said Catherine Hudgins, a Fairfax supervisor who is second vice chair of the Metro board. There was no question, she says, about persuading him to stay:
“He submitted his letter and of course it was a surprise to all of us. I will say it’s a surprise because I think the issue of whether he stays or not stays has been an issue that we put to rest a while ago. We are pleased. He is the right person to be there.”
“I think his letter was very frank and open—he’s ready to move on,” she added. “He cares about the Authority. He hopes that this is an opportunity for us to find someone that can focus on the agency, not him. I’m not sure how to address that part. But I think he felt he has done his best. And I think he has done a very good job.”
The board will now look to the transition. “That’s happened before,” Hudgins said. “If you look at the history, it’s happened a lot.
“Right now John is the general manager. We still look to him for leadership. It’s not a short time in the life of Metro between now and April. The thing that you don’t want is for [Metro employees] to think there is no leader. And John is that until April. John is still in charge.”
As for the search for a replacement, Hudgins said: “I believe John would still be as credible as anybody we could find. This is a hard job. And anybody who thinks anything less in coming here would be in trouble, and I think we would be too.”
Said Christopher Zimmerman, another Metro board member, who sits on the Arlington County Board: “I don’t think there is anyone in America, certainly that I know of, that would be a stronger candidate to do the job than the person that holds it right now. I do think we had the very best person.”
Going forward, Zimmerman said, “We will have the same problems to deal with. I think our challenge has gotten harder now.” Any new person coming in will need time to “get up to speed.”
“It will set you back a year any way you look at it,” he said. “I think that’s realistically what you’re looking at. To have somebody on board—hired, on board, and in control of everything—that takes time.”