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Chatham Area Transit names new CEO, executive director

After more than a year of holding the post in the interim, Curtis Koleber on Tuesday was named CEO and executive director of Chatham Area Transit.

He was selected to fill the post by the CAT Board of Directors this week after a long discussion in executive session. The details of Koleber’s contract will be decided during a meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The new executive director was one of two finalists for the job after the CAT Board held a nationwide search earlier this year. In May, CAT officials hired Colin Baenziger & Associates to conduct the search, which resulted in more than 50 applications.

Last month, that number was culled down to five finalists, all of whom were interviewed in executive session by the CAT Board at meetings in downtown Savannah. Those interviews brought the candidates down to two: Koleber and Ann Dawson August, the former CEO and executive director of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority in Birmingham, Ala.

After the board’s vote, Koleber said he’ll keep working hard and working toward his goals for CAT.

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve as the permanent executive cirector and CEO here at Chatham Area Transit,” he wrote in an emailed statement. “I want to thank all the employees and the board of directors here at CAT for their support and dedication, especially over this past year. We look forward to continue improving our services, rebuilding our fleet, creating sustainable funding and cultivating community engagement.”

The transit system has been without a chief administrator since last December, when the former CEO and executive director, Chad Reese, was fired amid federal fraud charges. Reese and former CAT Maintenance Director Joel Morris later pleaded guilty to some charges and are now serving sentences in federal prison.

After Reese was fired, Koleber, who previously served as the transit system’s chief operating officer, was appointed to take up the mantle and operate the system while CAT rebounded from the scandal.

CAT Board Chairman Pete Liakakis on Tuesday lauded the new director for his efforts during the past year. Liakakis said Koleber has had to take on three or four jobs and has done them all well.

“We appreciate all the things that you’ve done,” the chairman told Koleber. “You took a real negative position and you turned it into a positive by handling the negatives that have gone on. … You did a really good job on that, Curtis, and we all appreciate that, because it made a big difference on how we’re perceived.”

While she couldn’t give a number on the new director’s annual salary, CAT Board member Helen Stone, one of the members of the committee charged with finding the next CEO, said Tuesday that the bare bones of the contract have been agreed to and Koleber has accepted the position.

“We just negotiated,” Stone said. “I think we did a very good job. My goal was to look at other transit systems our size, and what were the executive directors paid, and to work through what we thought was reasonable and fair.”

 

IF YOU GO

What: CAT Board meeting

When: 3 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Joe Murray Rivers Intermodal Transit Center, 610 Oglethorpe Ave., Savannah

 

CURTIS KOLEBER

• Recent Transit Accomplishments: aided CAT in receiving $13 million from three federal and state grants; increased CAT’s on-time performance; developed partnerships with local, state and federal officials, businesses and other agencies.

• Recent Job History: Interim Director of CAT, Dec. 2015-Dec. 2016; COO of CAT, 2013-2015; General Manager with Veolia Transportation, 2010-2013

• Education: BA in Business Administration, Northern Arizona University; Leadership APTA Class of 2016; Aviation Academy, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport; Veolia Transportation Leadership Program, Chicago, Ill.

• Other memberships: Coastal Region Metropolitan Planning Organization Board Member; Savannah Mobility Management Inc. Board Member; Member, Georgia Transit Association; Member, American Public Transit Association; Member, Rotary International

• Other experience: Non-commissioned officer, U.S. Marine Corps, Cryptologic Arabic Linguist

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