Changes in state transportation department leadership underway

With the new year comes new leadership in many state departments of transportation

News AASHTO Journal January 09, 2007
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There will be leadership changes in at least a dozen state transportation departments as new governors and other turnover-spurring factors arrive with the new year.

New executives were named in the past three weeks in six states, and one more vacancy was created through a retirement.

In Maryland, incoming Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley selected former state Transportation Secretary John Porcari to again lead the department. Porcari will succeed Robert Flanagan, who chairs the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Official's (AASHTO) Standing Committee on Rail Transportation.

Gov.-elect Deval Patrick of Massachusetts has chosen Bernard Cohen, director of the Federal Transit Administration's Lower Manhattan Recovery Office in New York, to head the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT). Prior to being named to the New York position in 2004, Cohen was deputy managing director of the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., which oversees rail service in the Boston area. Cohen succeeds John Cogliano, who took over at the Massachusetts DOT following the resignation of former director Matthew Amorello.

Nevada Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons announced he is promoting 22-year DOT employee Susan Martinovich to become the director. Martinovich has been the Nevada DOT deputy director chief engineer under Director Jeff Fontaine, who announced in December that he is stepping down from that post to lead the Nevada Association of Counties. Fontaine served as vice chair of the AASHTO Standing Committee on the Environment. Martinovich currently serves as the vice chair of the AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways.

In mid-December, the Idaho state transportation board named Pamela Lowe as the new director of the Idaho DOT. She has served as the agency's deputy director since September, and has been with the agency since 1993. She served as the first female state highway district engineer in the state, and in 2004 was promoted to the post of administrator for the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Former Idaho DOT Director Dwight Bower, who had retired, served in an interim capacity following Dave Ekern's retirement in August; Ekern now serves as Commissioner at the Virginia DOT.

Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri in late-December named that Jerome Williams, currently director of the state Department of Administration, to take the top job at the state DOT. Williams, formerly a senior vice president at FleetBoston Financial, also had assisted in the state's pension-reform initiative. Williams' predecessor, James Capaldi, recently retired after 36 years with the department.

Recently re-elected Gov. Linda Lingle of Hawaii announced in late-December that Barry Fukanaga-a deputy director of the transportation department in the Harbors Division-will become the new director of the Hawaii DOT. Fukunaga will assume the post held for four years by Director Rodney Haraga, who co-chairs the Joint AASHTO-American Council of Engineering Companies Task Force.

Elizabeth Mabry, who has served for a decade as Director of the South Carolina DOT, announced she would be retiring at year's end.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri became the governor for a day, due to the absence of New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine from the state on Thursday, Dec. 28, along with the president of the state senate, the speaker of the state assembly and the state attorney general. New Jersey currently has no position of lieutenant governor.

"At best my family will call me governor," Kolluri joked to the Associated Press. "At worst I'm a 'Jeopardy!' question."

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