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MTA board set to choose next chief poobah

March 3, 2009 | 10:27 am

It appears we're getting closer to seeing that magical puff of smoke from the grandiose headquarters of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority: The agency's board has scheduled a special meeting on Thursday to select its next chief executive officer to replace the retiring Roger Snoble.

According to the published agenda, the 13-member board will be meeting in closed session. The board interviewed candidates at the Biltmore behind closed doors last week and, as we reported, appears to have settled on Art Leahy, the chief executive officer of Orange County Transportation Authority, as the leading candidate.

Snoble has been negotiating the contract with his replacement. For Leahy to get the job, the majority of the 13-member board -- which includes Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the five county supervisors -- will have to approve the deal. Then details of the contract will be made public.

The MTA is the third-largest transit agency in terms of boardings each year, according to industry statistics. The next chief gets to figure out how to build all the many projects promised as part of the Measure R sales tax increase approved by voters last year while trying to replace $400 million in state funding over the next four years the Legislature took away as part of its recent budget deal. Fun stuff, eh?

--Steve Hymon