The leadership of Island Transit is going to be very different in the new year.
The majority of board members have been replaced and will be working with a new interim director.
The new group of leaders will also have a lot on their plate in the coming year as the agency struggles to rebuild its finances, bring back routes, negotiate to continue bus connector services to other counties and deal with the possible unionization of drivers and dispatchers.
Kenneth Graska, the interim director, attended his first board meeting Friday morning. He will replace Coupeville Councilman Bob Clay, who as chairman of the transit board has been the acting director for the last few months.
Graska said he’s spent his first five days on the job meeting the employees and he’s impressed.
“You have the most committed, cohesive group of transit professionals I have come across,” he said.
It was the final meeting as transit board members for both Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson and Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley.
Price-Johnson’s fellow commissioners voted this week to replace her on the board. Commissioner Rick Hannold attended the meeting Friday as former commissioner Aubrey Vaughan’s replacement.
Commissioner Jill Johnson will take Price-Johnson’s seat next month.
Johnson said the decision to replace Price-Johnson was in response to public feedback.
“There’s an overwhelming desire from the public to see change in leadership on the board,” she said.
Price-Johnson was named as an alternate in case either commissioner can’t attend.
She said Friday that she understood the decision wasn’t personal or punitive, but that “elections have consequences.” Hannold won the election in November; he and Johnson are both Republicans.
Price-Johnson said she would like to continue helping the transit agency. She pointed out that the new board won’t have any representation from unincorporated South Whidbey or Camano Island.
The Oak Harbor Council voted this month to replace Dudley with Councilman Rick Almberg in the new year. Some of the council members criticized him for going to Coupeville and Langley to ask other councils to change their representation on the board.
Langley Councilman Jim Sundberg said he expects to continue on the board in 2015. Clay didn’t address the issue.
The board approved the agency’s $12-million budget for 2015. The budget shows a $60,000 increase in working capital.
Clay gave his final debriefing as acting CEO. He said the agency’s drivers and dispatchers are working towards becoming unionized, but it’s still very preliminary.
He and Price-Johnson discussed plans to bring back an important South Whidbey route in April.
They both also talked about the discussions that regional transit leaders and state lawmakers have had over the connector services. The state’s funding of the connector between Camano Island and Everett ran out this year; the funding for the route between Whidbey and Skagit ends this summer.
“I’m bound and determined to find some way to provide some level of service at least between Oak Harbor and Mount Vernon,” Clay said.