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Residents weigh in on SANDAG

REGION — About a dozen residents gathered at Encinitas City Hall on Jan. 25 to share their input on what characteristics, knowledge and skills the next SANDAG executive director should have before the job search begins.

It was the fourth community engagement meeting SANDAG held to gather input on hiring the next regional transportation executive director. Prior meetings were held in Escondido, Chula Vista and Santee with eight to 22 people in attendance at each.

The final community meeting was held in San Diego on Jan. 30. Meeting locations were spread throughout the county and hosted by mayors and a county supervisor who are SANDAG selection subcommittee members.

A SANDAG online survey to collect community input on job qualifications gathered more than 200 responses prior to the close of the feedback period Jan. 31.

CPS HR consultant Pam Derby led community engagement discussions. She said the climate movement group had a strong presence at all meetings.

The same seemed true at the Jan. 25 meeting. Most comments and questions centered around greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the number of cars on local roads and making public transportation more convenient in all parts of the county.

Candidate transparency and ethical behavior were also brought up at earlier meetings, and echoed by attendees Jan. 25.

Also of concern to residents throughout the county is Mexico border and state Route 78 traffic, and adding more trollies in south San Diego County.

There was little discussion on Jan. 25 about former Executive Director Gary Gallegos, who took an early retirement after it was found SANDAG knowingly used inflated estimates of how much money it would collect through a sales tax measure, and over-promised billions of dollars of road, street and public transportation improvements based on those estimates.

The SANDAG board will hear a summary of community feedback on qualifications for the next executive director at its Feb. 9 retreat. Following board input a job recruitment brochure will be created and a job description will be posted Feb. 12.

Candidates will have a month to apply. CPS will conduct an initial screening to ensure interested applicants meet the minimal requirements, and recommend top candidates to the SANDAG selection subcommittee.

Subcommittee members will narrow down the pool of applicants to the top two to three finalists in early April.

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear serves on the subcommittee. She said she is looking for a candidate who has experience in multiple modes of transportation in order to best serve diverse county needs.

She added it is also essential that the applicant is a strong leader, collaborative, maintains good working relationships and has a proven track record of successfully leveraging state and federal funds.

“This is one of the most important decisions we’ll make,” Blakespear said.

The board will vote in closed session on who to hire April 27.

Derby said the sought-after position will be open to candidates nationwide.

“Outreach will be nationally and locally, everyone will be on the same playing field,” Derby said.

No salary amount has been set. Gallegos earned $300,000 annually.