Governor Deval Patrick has signaled that he wants Beverly A. Scott, head of the Atlanta transit system, to become general manager of the MBTA, even before the state board that has authority over the appointment interviews the two finalists for the position, say people familiar with the selection process.
Scott is expected to be offered the job at an annual salary of about $225,000, they said.
MBTA officials expect the other finalist, Scott's chief deputy in Atlanta, to attend Monday's public meeting of the board of directors of the state Department of Transportation and to be interviewed whether Scott accepts the position beforehand or not, they said.
Scott, 61, a well-regarded transit manager with decades of experience, would be a historic pick as the first African-American woman to lead the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which is the fifth largest public transit system in ridership in the country and has an annual budget of nearly $1.8 billion and more than 6,500 employees.
Hiring a general manager for the T, one of the highest-profile government jobs in the state, is the first important task for the transportation board. The seven members, all appointed by Patrick this month following a board reorganization, include three close Patrick allies: Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey; board chairman John R. Jenkins, owner of an insurance company; and Janice Loux, a longtime labor leader.
Scott, who is paid $315,000 as the Atlanta transit system general manager and chief executive officer, declined to be interviewed on Wednesday.
The other candidate, Dwight A. Ferrell, 55, said in an interview Wednesday that he believed he had a legitimate shot at the job and that he did not think the T would invite him to Boston if the selection had already been made.
"I'm excited and flattered to have this opportunity to interview with this board to lead an incredible organization at this critical time," said Ferrell, currently the Atlanta transit system's chief operating officer earning $231,000 annually. "I've been in public transit a long time, and this is an incredible opportunity."
Ferrell said he planned to arrive in Boston Sunday and return to Atlanta Monday.
A spokeswoman for Davey said no selection has been made.
"We have two candidates for the job," said Cyndi Roy, the spokeswoman. "The board hasn't voted; the board has ultimately authority over the selection. The board will conduct interviews on Monday and make a decision on Monday."
She said the candidates are scheduled to be interviewed for two hours each.
But one person familiar with the process said that the decision has already been made and that Scott will be offered the position in a private meeting before Monday's public meeting.
"She is the governor's choice," this person said.
Roy said that Davey was committed to diversity and that gender was "a factor, but not the only factor," in evaluating the candidates. "Expanding the diversity of the MBTA is important to Secretary Davey, the organization, and the state."
The MBTA, which raised fares this year, faces major fiscal challenges as ridership continues to increase steadily, but revenues continue to fall well short of costs.
Meanwhile, the T is planning a major expansion in extending the Green Line from Lechmere Square in Cambridge into Somerville and Medford.
The appointment of Scott would fulfill Davey's pledge to appoint the first female general manager of the MBTA. Last fall, Davey — speaking to the Women's Transportation Seminar, which lobbies for advancing women in public transportation positions — asked for recommendations in his search "to appoint the first female general manager of the MBTA," according to the organization's newsletter.
The T general manager position became open more than a year ago when Davey was promoted from that job to state transportation secretary. Since then, the T has been run by Jonathan Davis, the T's chief financial officer, on an interim basis.
Davis was told early in the process that he would not be considered a candidate for the top position.
About 100 candidates were screened for the position, which during Davey's tenure paid about $150,000 a year.
The previous general manager, Daniel Grabauskas , was paid $255,000, but was forced out by Patrick in a high-profile feud that began with questions of performance and touched on pay.
The offer to Scott comes as another high-profile public transportation position is set to be filled after also being vacant for more than a year.
The board of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan Airport, approved Thomas P. Glynn as its chief executive Thursday, at an annual salary of $250,000.
Sean P. Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.