New talents join Sound Transit leadership team

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Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Joni Earl has hired two new agency leaders: Ron Tober as Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Ron Klein as Director of Communications and External Affairs.

“With voter approval of Sound Transit 2 last November, Sound Transit is entering a period of exciting new challenges,” Earl said. “We’re already experiencing double-digit increases in ridership. We need experienced transportation and communication people in leadership positions to make sure we’re efficient, effective and in touch with our customers.”

Tober brings more than 35 years of experience managing transit operations and capital projects, most recently as CEO of the Charlotte Area Transit System for the past eight years, a role in which he oversaw the opening of North Carolina’s first light rail line as part of managing an integrated system of bus, paratransit, ride-share and vanpool programs spanning six counties.

Tober previously served as Director of Transit for the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (Metro) from 1982 to 1988 and as General Manager and Secretary-Treasurer for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority from 1988 to 1999.

Tober has been active on numerous transit industry committees, and served as chair of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and as president of the Ohio Public Transit Association. APTA members recognized him as the Outstanding Public Transportation Manager for 2005, and in October 2008 he was elected to the North Carolina Transportation Hall of Fame. Tober was selected as 1990 Most Valuable Public Official-Special District by City and State magazine.

In 1997, The American Society for Public Administration extended him the Ernest J. Bohn Award, its honor for excellence. In 1999, he received the Executive of the Year Award from the Conference of Minority Transit Officials in recognition for his efforts in hiring and promoting minorities and women.

Klein assumes the Director of Communications and External Affairs role following eight years at Pierce County. His responsibilities there included media relations, public outreach and education, Internet and Intranet site development, operation of the county’s cable TV channel, and strategic leadership in cooperation with the county executive and other county departments.

The county’s communications initiatives earned numerous national awards for outreach campaigns and for environmental protection, and state awards for economic development and transportation. In 2006, former Pierce County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chair John Ladenburg was named Public Official of the Year by the Municipal League of King County, marking the first time the honor was awarded outside King County.

Prior to Pierce County, Klein worked for advertising and public relations firms in the Seattle/Tacoma area. He most recently served as Executive Creative Director and Senior Vice President for Cole & Weber, Inc. (1995-2000). He has been honored with numerous national awards for a wide range of clients, including The Boeing Company. Klein has a TV commercial in the Museum of Modern Art permanent collection and a poster campaign in the Library of Congress.

Klein and Tober join Sound Transit’s Executive Leadership Team, including Desmond Brown, Ahmad Fazel, Ric Ilgenfritz, Brian McCartan and Bonnie Todd. Earl is working with the team to prepare the agency for the Sound Transit 2 work program while completing Sound Move.

Sound Transit’s ridership grew more than 17 percent in 2008, including a 24 percent increase on Sounder commuter rail. The agency is on track for the July 2009 opening of light rail service from downtown Seattle to Tukwila, with direct service to Sea-Tac International Airport by the end of 2009. The agency is about to break ground on the University Link light rail extension from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington.

The November 2008 passage of Sound Transit 2 will bring 36 additional miles of light rail by 2023. Work is underway to increase ST Express bus service by 17 percent and Sounder commuter rail service by 65 percent, along with other regional transit projects including access improvements at stations.