Metro: Search is still on for general manager

WASHINGTON — Metro announced Monday that the search is still on for its general manager after sources told WTOP last week that the transit agency had chosen its top candidate.

Last week, sources told WTOP that Metro selected Neal Cohen as its candidate for general manager and his hiring could be announced this week. On Monday, Metro said Cohen is no longer under consideration for the job.

On Thursday, Cohen accepted Metro’s offer for the job — but it was not a done deal yet, sources said on the condition of anonymity. A contract had not yet been finalized.

Metro released the following statement Monday:

“WMATA and Neal Cohen have mutually agreed that Mr. Cohen is no longer under consideration to become WMATA’s General Manager. The executive recruitment process to determine who will lead WMATA remains ongoing, and discussions with candidates are actively underway.  For that reason, we will not comment further on the search, except to say that the Board remains committed to completing the process as quickly as possible.“

Cohen has spent more than 20 years in the airline and aerospace industries. He worked in the 1990s and 2000s for Northwest Airlines and US Airways, leading both airlines through Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganizations. He was an executive vice president and chief financial officer for each, and holds the titles at contracting company, Orbital ATK.

Last month, the United States Secretary of Transportation transferred Metro’s safety oversight to the Federal Transit Administration following several safety lapses including the deadly smoke incident at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in January. Among the FTA’s top priorities is hiring a capable general manager as soon as possible.

Secretary Anthony Foxx saud the transit agency needs a general manager who is “able to correct the course” and “aggressively manage the implementation of the Corrective Action Plan, which has been approved by the FTA.”

Metro’s decision has Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe disappointed in the leadership and board at the transit agency.

“I am outraged by the latest setback in a process that would be comical if the need for new leadership at Metro were not so great,” McAuliffe said in a statement Monday.

“Identifying and hiring a qualified General Manager is the WMATA Board’s chief responsibility and the first step that must be taken in order to oversee the safety and operational changes that are essential to Metro’s long-term sustainability. The leaks and petty political sniping that have come to define the work of this board are harming the Metro system and the economy of the region it serves.”

Former General Manager Richard Sarles announced his retirement last September, then left the post in January. Jack Requa was named interim general manager at that time.

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