RVTD board names district's new general manager

MEDFORD — Julie Brown, a 12-year employee of the Rogue Valley Transportation District and interim general manager for the past month, was named the district's permanent general manager at Wednesday's RVTD board meeting.

Brown takes the wheel from Peter Jacobsen, who in a surprise announcement earlier this year revealed his plans to retire after just four years of service.

The board selected Brown after interviewing 25 candidates for the position.

Prior to her appointment as interim manager, Brown was brokerage manager for Translink, a division of RVTD. Now she will try to guide a transit system faced with strained financial resources, which have forced a reduction in service and a complete shutdown of some bus routes.

Brown said she is optimistic that solutions toward long-term sustainability are available for the district and that she looks forward to working with a board she knows well.

"I think that one thing the public may not know is how hard this board has been working together to come to a solution for our district," she said. "There's a real commitment to try and see the district move forward and to provide the service that the public wants."

Board member Ernest Garb said he thought the board had made the right decision by choosing Brown.

"This didn't happen by magic," he said. "It was after a long and lengthy search and the result is that we now have the candidate who will bring us out of our muck and mire."

More praise came from outgoing board chairman Edwin Chapman, who said, "You can't say she hit the ground running. She was running before June 1, but on June 1 the whole load fell on her shoulders and she's handled it beautifully."

Brown told the board that in the next fiscal year the district will not have to make any service cuts and that talks with local communities about the district's long-range plans will continue.

"All the different jurisdictions are beginning to understand our dilemma and the things we need," she said. "They're working toward helping us to either find some short-term funding, or are supporting us in a short-term situation."

She said the district's long-range goals are at a crossroads and that in the very near future, "we have an opportunity to fulfill them.

"Businesses and the general public are seeing the importance of transportation and I'm seeing a surge of interest in our community to push for public transportation."

She said her goals are those that she has heard many times from the public, "like weekend service, seven-day-a-week service and late-night service."

"I would like to see service that really helps people get to work, or be able to go out to social events in the evening. It would be something that would be viable, so they wouldn't have to get into their car."

The board set Brown's start date for the $80,000-a-year position back to June 1, the day she took over as interim general manager.

Gary Nelson, a retired 22-year veteran bus driver for RVTD, said he wants Brown to keep the district fired up and ready to go.

"I hope that she, and they, can find a way to restore some of the services that we've lost," he said. "It's so important to everyday people."

In other business, the board approved the 2007-'08 district budget of $16.7 million and presented a plaque of appreciation to Chapman, who is leaving the board after 25 years' service.

A copy of the RVTD Long-Range Plan is available online at www.rvmpo.org.

Bill Miller is a Southern Oregon freelance writer. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.

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