City Desk

Metro General Manager John Catoe Resigning

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The Washington Post is reporting Metro General Manager John Catoe is out.

From the blog "Get There": "Events of the last six months have created an unhealthy distraction, he says."

WTOP says the resignation will be effective in April. They report that Catoe had made his decision last week. He admitted to the WMATA board that the negative press had become too much:

"Catoe told the board he felt he was hurting Metro more than he was helping the transit agency.

'The past six months have been an unbelievable challenge to this organization,' Catoe told the Metro Board.

'There is a distraction — a constant reporting of negatives. I have become the face of the organization and in some cases, the face of that. I feel that this organization does not deserve that.'"

UPDATE: The Post reports that Catoe's resignation, announced after a special Metro board meeting today, will take effect April 2. He said Metro's troubles during the past year, including the fatal Red Line crash last summer, had created "an unhealthy distraction" and that it was time to go. Stepping down, he said, will allow the transit agency to "move beyond distractions."

From the Post:

Metro board chair Jim Graham thanked Catoe for his work and said the board had been informed of the decision Thursday. "We have full confidence in your ability to continue until April," Graham said.

"We recognize this is a choice that you have made," Graham added. The board will begin searching for a replacement.

Read Metro's statement here. He "decided to retire"!

Some quick background: Since the Metro crash, Sen. Barbara Mikulski had become one of WMATA's harshest critics. Earlier this month, the Examiner reported Mikulski had sent a letter to the board demanding that it prove how it was improving safety conditions:

"The residents of the National Capital region are tired of government not doing its job," the Democrat wrote. "I hear from my constituents about their daily frustrations with Metro: inoperable escalators and elevators; closed entrances and exits; train delays; and communication problems with riders during train breakdowns."

Councilmember Michael Brown recounts the reaction from WMATA's board.

So what happens next?

Metro board member Jeff McKay told Washington Business Journal that an acting general manager will be named—and then the board will conduct an international search for Catoe's permanent replacement.

“We will leave no stone unturned," he said. "I think we’ll have a very complete search that will be very transparent. It might take a while, but we’ve got to get this right and take the necessary time we need. We will look everywhere. Internationally, nationally, whatever it takes."

All those bloggers Catoe met with this week thought they'd scored big, but they must feel sort of  silly at this point. Bob Thomson of the Post said in a live online chat this afternoon: "Catoe told us that he made this decision about a week ago. There wasn't any one event that led to it he said. There was no pressure from any specific party. He said he hasn't been spending the past few months mulling whether he should do this, but just came to the conclusion that the organization needed a change. 'I've become the face of the organization,' he said."

Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

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