Greater Greater Washington

DDOT director job description tilts toward highway veterans

Mayor Gray has engaged an executive search firm to recruit a new DDOT Director. While Gray and his transportation chairs have expressed a desire for world-class candidates, the job description recently posted seems to slant toward long-time, more conventional transportation administrators.


Photo on Flickr by SOCIALisBETTER

It may just be that the job description doesn't fully reflect what Gray is looking for. The description of the department certainly does portray a more progressive agency:

The Department is committed to achieving an exceptional quality of life in the nation's capital through sustainable travel practices, safer streets and outstanding management of the movement of people and goods by all modes of transportation, including motor vehicles, mass transit, bicycles, and pedestrians.

However, the qualifications section is more troubling:

  • Mastery experience and extensive knowledge of surface transportation programs such as the Federal-aid highway program, highway safety, bridges, planning and environment design, civil rights, infrastructure, ITS/transportation management, highway financing, and technology transfer systems;
  • Extensive experience with or knowledge of budget development and management;
  • Demonstrated ability to work with consumers, professional and voluntary associations and advocate groups on fostering and accomplishing strategic goals supported by state-of-the-art technology;
  • Mastery of communications, both orally and in writing;
  • Bachelor's degree in a relevant field of study (e.g. public policy, urban planning and development, business, law, public administration, or related field);
  • Must become a resident of the District of Columbia.
The job requirements focus on managing highway construction programs, but make no mention of managing a transit system. That will be a vital responsibility for an agency that runs the most successful bus system in the region and will launch a streetcar system on the next director's watch.

Neither is there any mention of the need to understand the relationship between transportation infrastructure and land use. That is a key distinction between progressive and old-school DOT heads.

Perhaps it's a nitpick, but the exclusion of folks who pursued liberal arts educations as undergraduates is also odd. It seems to unnecessarily exclude folks who may be more creative and open to new ideas. Yet, one of the requirements does just that.

It seems unlikely that Gabe Klein would have make this cut. Based on statements from Gray officials when eliminating the unified fund, it appears that Gray wants someone who will focus a lot more on dotting the i's and crossing the t's.

That's not a bad thing, and certainly doesn't mean the person will push the department just to build projects based on vehicular Level of Service models while ignoring multimodalism, land use, and community engagement. However, the job description also doesn't seem written optimally to attract candidates who are solid on the financial side but whose main strengths lie in bringing innovative programs to fruition.

The person heading up the executive search, Robert Clayton, has no experience with transportation or planning, but focuses on law, higher education and athletics. From one of the emails in his search, he touts his friendship with Mayor Gray.

I have been engaged to conduct the search for the new Director of Transportation to join the Administration of my good friend Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray. I have attached the Position Announcement. Please forward to interested colleagues and APTA members. Best, Robert Clayton
Privately, Gray and his transportation transition leaders, Tom Downs and Cell Bernardino, have assured advocates that they're not interested in the kind of director who ignores transit, pedestrians and bikes. To pick a great director, though, they'll still need to have a great candidate decide to apply and get past the search firm.

The full position description can be viewed here.

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Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 

Comments

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David, the first bit is ddot's new mission statement issued under Gabe Klein's tenure. The second bit is the old school boiler plate JD from the 90's. When are you going to realize that these guys are totally out of touch and DDOT and other agencies are going to have to take big steps back under Gray. It's what he ran on!

by Transitjunkie on Jan 10, 2011 12:51 pm • linkreport

So Gray fired a great DDOT director and now is paying an executive search firm to find a new one?

by nowithetime on Jan 10, 2011 1:08 pm • linkreport

@David It seems unlikely that Gabe Klein would have make this cut.

And doesn't that speak volumes? If you go through the requirements list, all but the last one (residency) are things that were missing in Klein's background ... and their lack probably played a big factor in getting us into the mess we're in now.

by Lance on Jan 10, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

Having a bachelor's degree educational requirement for an executive position is silly, never mind the field of study. Candidates are going to be judged based on their work experience. Who care what they did when they were 20 years old?

by jcm on Jan 10, 2011 1:38 pm • linkreport

Frankly I'm surprised a bachelors degree is the highest educational attainment required. I was expecting it to require a graduate degree in the field (thus negating undergrad major as requirement) and/or/plus n years professional experience/equivalent accomplishements. Really surprised at undergrad major requirement.

by Tina on Jan 10, 2011 1:39 pm • linkreport

[T]heir lack probably played a big factor in getting us into the mess we're in now.

I can't be the only one who would welcome an elaboration. I can honestly say--and I mean this in all sincerity--that I have no idea what "the mess we're in now" means.

by oboe on Jan 10, 2011 1:45 pm • linkreport

What mess would that be exactly, Lance?

by BeyondDC on Jan 10, 2011 1:58 pm • linkreport

oboe, BeyondDC Really? Are you guys bored at work? If Lance wants to make his point, he will anyway. Why engage him?

by TimK on Jan 10, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

"The job requirements focus on managing highway construction programs, but make no mention of managing a transit system. That will be a vital responsibility for an agency that runs the most successful bus system in the region and will launch a streetcar system on the next director's watch. " Absolutely, since DC has little roll in daily operation of the the Circulator.

by Interested on Jan 10, 2011 2:08 pm • linkreport

I can only repeat what I've heard/read second hand. And I don't have too many specifics. However, if my sources are to be believed, David's been in first hand contact with the folks inheriting the mess ... and they've shown him everything there is to know. Yes, it's possible he views the issues more 'solveable' than others, but the issues are there. Frankly, I'd like to hear David's take on them. It would add to the discussion ... a lot.

by Lance on Jan 10, 2011 2:10 pm • linkreport

KenA, After reading the article, it's safe to say that you are nitpicking. Why does an announcement for a DDOT director need to include anything about being creative. It's a job announcement something a little less abstract than what you're suggesting.

Why exclude someone with a liberal arts degree? Who knows, maybe the same reason phys ed teachers don't moonlight as lawyers.

by HogWash on Jan 10, 2011 2:12 pm • linkreport

First, elections have consequences.

Second, would a DDOT director actually need experiences in all the identified areas? Wouldn't they be mainly relying on their program people for that?

I mean, Klein didn't have any streetcar experience, yet no one in his fan club criticized his actual performance on that issue. Same for him having any public bike project experience. His experience was limited to On the Fly and ZipCars. Yet he had program managers that played the lead role on all the details while he was, I guess, the vision guy.

And it is odd that you wouldn't require an advanced degree, or at least "prefer" one.

by Fritz on Jan 10, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

oboe, BeyondDC Really? Are you guys bored at work? If Lance wants to make his point, he will anyway. Why engage him?

You got me. Slow work day, and I'm trying to put off getting on the rollers for an hour or so. Damn winter weather is driving us to the point of madness...

:)

by oboe on Jan 10, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport

First, elections have consequences.

We keep hearing this, and yet Gray keeps surprising everyone by essentially appointing clones of Williams/Fenty. I'm still holding my breath, but it's looking more and more like Gray's rhetoric during the Democratic primary was just that--a branding effort to differentiate him from the incumbent.

by oboe on Jan 10, 2011 2:24 pm • linkreport

So when pressed to defend his belief that Klein created a "mess" at DDOT, Lance's response is "I don't know of anything he did that was bad, but I've heard that some other people might be unhappy with something, although I don't know what that might be."

Sorry, that isn't convincing.

by BeyondDC on Jan 10, 2011 2:28 pm • linkreport

@BeyondDC ... I didn't say I don't know of anything he did bad. I said I'm not in the same position to repeat it as David is in ... since my information is second hand and not first hand as David's is.

by Lance on Jan 10, 2011 2:35 pm • linkreport

All of the items in the first bullet are things that would make DDOT fiscal program for managing transportation assets successful in the eyes of the Federal Highway Administration -- you know the ones that pay for a BIG chunk of the capital program (80% +). Playing that game and keeping the FHWA Division office very happy is an incredibly important part of the role of director.

by Some Ideas on Jan 10, 2011 2:52 pm • linkreport

We keep hearing this, and yet Gray keeps surprising everyone by essentially appointing clones of Williams/Fenty.

It's not that surprising since Fenty and Gray agreed on many issues of governance.

by Scoot on Jan 10, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

What am I missing here?

You make the critique that it doesn't require bus/street car experience.

Gabe didn't have any of that experience and I don't remember any of his fans thinking that was a problem.

The fact that they didn't require an advanced degree is pretty telling that they already have the person in mind for this position and write the job description to fit that person.

Not to get in a flame war, but a DDOT is not an agency that would typically do well under the auspices of someone with only an undergrad liberal arts degree.

No, the head of DDOT is not in the field overseeing the construction personnel, or at a cad station laying out the roads, but the basic langauage of the ENTIRE ddot business is technical and he needs to be able to atleast speak the basic language and understand whats going on.

Is the head of GM a mechanical engineer? No, but the head of DDOT doesn't have 15 levels of corporate governance between himself and the guys on the "assembly line" paving the streets.

There is a reason that 99% of all the national heads of ddots have some technical relevant background and weren't arts majors in school.

Lastly, none of this is surprising in the least.

by freely on Jan 10, 2011 4:24 pm • linkreport

Personally, I would like to know what that girl's shirt means in the photo at top? Is it a sexual reference that I'm completely missing?

That is all.

by Shipsa01 on Jan 10, 2011 5:17 pm • linkreport

It's actually a t-shirt with a resume printed on the back. Maybe for wearing to job fairs?

by David Alpert on Jan 10, 2011 5:21 pm • linkreport

Thanks!

by Shipsa01 on Jan 10, 2011 5:23 pm • linkreport

Anytime someone leaves an important post, the incoming administration will say something is "a mess." It would be wierd if they didnt. The Streetcar was a mess when Gabe got there and he was the only one that dared to even touch it at all.

Being on the inside at DDOT, I can tell you that the transition team was actually bowled over with how much Klein and team had done, and were doing. They will be hard pressed to fill Gabe's shoes, and the fact that they have expressed frustration in their being no good candidates out there is pretty telling. OBOE is right that it's all about branding, and Mr. Gray does not like to be overshadowed by more energetic cabinet members.

by ddotmgt on Jan 10, 2011 5:53 pm • linkreport

^^^^^ This is an interesting comment because to a person, everyone who I have spoken to at DDOt thinks Gabe Klein was a clown who was more concerned about public persona and didn't know his head from his posterior and had to be corrected after press availabilities due to his mis-informaton. According to my contacts, he wasn't much of an administrator either.

That said, I am personally a fan of the different policies in place and in general, the execution, but that had little to do with the Director. Hopefully Gray won't change that.

by William on Jan 10, 2011 6:06 pm • linkreport

@ddotmgt They will be hard pressed to fill Gabe's shoes, and the fact that they have expressed frustration in their being no good candidates out there is pretty telling.

I have to concur with what William has to say. Especially after reading the above statement of yours. I'd be surprised if Gray doesn't already have the successor picked out.

by Lance on Jan 10, 2011 7:37 pm • linkreport

I think they must have someone in mind. The residency piece is key, unless, they are badly stating that someone needs to be willing to become a DC resident if offered the job.

I think it's reasonable to expect city workers to live in the city, but if you are only going to consider current residents than you are closing yourself off to a significant pool of talented professionals with experience in similar urban areas.

by Kate on Jan 10, 2011 7:56 pm • linkreport

@Ken A.... I'm with freely and Hogwash. You are being nitpicky. Someone with a liberal arts degree is excluded because it highly unlikely that said person has any experience in transportation. They may have worked on transportation projects, but if so it's probably very niche like an anthropologist or something. I'm actually surprised a Master's isn't required.

Understanding the Federal Aid Program gets at the fundamental things you are concerned about. Federal legislation (23 CFR Sections 134 and 135) are VERY prescriptive for long-range transportation planning. It includes linking transportation and land use, non-vehicle transport safety, and public transportation. You want a director who understands the different programs and funding streams so they can be creative in how the fund progressive initiatives.

Lastly it's a job description. Most job descriptions are straight forward and are a minimum standard. In the interview is when you get a better understanding of what makes a person tick.

by Veronica O. Davis (Ms V) on Jan 10, 2011 7:59 pm • linkreport

I'll run DDOT... it's one of the items on my To Do list.

by Bossi on Jan 10, 2011 8:48 pm • linkreport

Kate, the residency requirement is fairly standard for Cabinet positions in DC. It was a fairly major issue with Peter Nickles, the last AG, who dithered for awhile in getting a DC residence.

by TimK on Jan 10, 2011 9:56 pm • linkreport

I dont know who William is or who he thinks he knows but I can tell you that Gabe Klein was the most popular Director we ever had for a lot of reasons. He cared about the employees and followed through on his promises. He had a real vision for the agency, and he made us proud of Ddot again because he got results. He will be missed across the agency and the city. I hope they find someone half as good to replace him and we will be okay.

by Reeves Reps on Jan 10, 2011 11:01 pm • linkreport

@Kate The residency piece is key, unless, they are badly stating that someone needs to be willing to become a DC resident if offered the job.

It's the latter ... i.e., the candidate has to be willing to move to DC if he/she is not already living there. (It's a DC requirement put into effect some 10 years ago. I think when it first came up, the intent was that all new DC employees would have to move to DC, but it later got watered down to only applying to bigwigs.)L

by Lance on Jan 11, 2011 8:12 am • linkreport

@Reeves Reps:

That was the first thing I thought when I read the comment by "William". I don't doubt there was some tension between Klein (and the "new guard"), and the "old school" DOT types at DDOT who would question the legitimacy of anything that hasn't got eight lanes separated by a Jersey wall.

Every bureaucracy has dinosaurs who can't adapt and resent change.

by oboe on Jan 11, 2011 9:11 am • linkreport

...that is on the off-chance that "William" and "Lance" aren't posting from the same IP address. :)

***ducks***

by oboe on Jan 11, 2011 9:13 am • linkreport

Does it really matter who liked Klein or to what extent? Consistent with this past election cycle, Fenty supporters will be on one side while Gray's will be the other. Either way, Klein is history. Much like Michelle Rhee.

Based on Klein's depth of prior experience, he wasn't qualified to be head of DDOT. Maybe a program manager but not the entire dept. But, he seems to have done a reasonable job, some even think GREAT...some not as much. All are matters of perspective. There are pros and cons to this new age approach in management. Experience in the field really does matter. Don't believe me? Ask Michelle Rhee.

by HogWash on Jan 11, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

Does it really matter who liked Klein or to what extent? Consistent with this past election cycle, Fenty supporters will be on one side while Gray's will be the other. Either way, Klein is history. Much like Michelle Rhee.

Right, but as we keep seeing over and over again with Gray's appointments, the replacement is essentially the same person as the replace-ee. My guess is that Gray will appoint some guy named Abe Stein to mollify his supporters thirst for "change", and we'll just continue down the same road we've been travelling the last decade. Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

Don't believe me? Just ask Kaya Henderson. Heh.

by oboe on Jan 11, 2011 10:53 am • linkreport

Right, but as we keep seeing over and over again with Gray's appointments, the replacement is essentially the same person as the replace-ee. My guess is that Gray will appoint some guy named Abe Stein to mollify his supporters thirst for "change", and we'll just continue down the same road we've been travelling the last decade.

Hmm, maybe. But if true, your thoughts totally captures the irrational, detached from reality, misgivings of his opponents (the profenty camp). It was this core group who concluded that electing Gray would take us back to the days of when blacks ran the city. Ok, back to the days of Barry. Even though this group had no evidence to support this fallacy, it didn't stop them from campaigning on this very important point.

Also, I don't recall Gray supporters being wholly against any of Fenty's cabinet picks. There were two exceptions - Rhee and Nickles. Both are now gone and most of us have enough sense to give Gray the opportunity to choose from wherever.

But if we're going back to the article, at least this author seems to have a problem that Gray's not-yet-announced pick, ain't Gabe Klein. Klein was "creative"...in a zipcarkindaway.

by HogWash on Jan 11, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

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