For the third time since 2015, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will change leadership this summer when acting general manager Brian Shortsleeve steps down to return to the private sector.
Steve Poftak, the vice chair of the MBTA’s governing board, will take Shortsleeve’s place at the end of June, Governor Charlie Baker announced Thursday afternoon. Poftak will serve as interim general manager while the T conducts a national search for a permanent leader. Shortsleeve, in turn, will take Poftak’s position on the five-member oversight board.
The T has been working with an executive search firm to find candidates for general manager, and Baker said there are “more than five and less than 15” in the running right now. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the search is on schedule to be concluded before the end of the year. “We’re still well within that timeframe,” she said.
But the timeline conflicted with Shortsleeve’s plans to wrap up his tenure. He joined the T in 2015, originally as chief administrator, a new position focusing primarily on the agency’s financial issues. Prior to taking that job, Shortsleeve worked at the venture capital fund General Catalyst, where Baker once served as “executive in residence.”
“Brian promised us two years when he came on board, and he has fulfilled that promise,” Pollack said.
Poftak’s salary will be higher than Shortsleeve, who was paid about $170,000 in 2016. Pollack said his raise is a “signal” that the T is willing to pay up— possibly more than $300,000 — to attract better candidates and reduce turnover in the general manager role.
And there has been a lot of turnover. Poftak will be the fourth leader of the transit agency since Baker’s took office in 2015. Beverly Scott, who was appointed under then-Governor Deval Patrick, resigned from the position in February 2015 amid massive snowfall that brought much of the transit system to a halt.
She was followed by Frank DePaola, a former state highway official who retired in 2016 due to a health issue and was replaced on an interim basis by Shortsleeve.
Baker on Thursday also said another board member, Lisa Calise, will step down once the permanent general manager is selected. Poftak will then return to the board, filling her spot. The fiscal control board was formed in 2015 to more closely monitor the T’s fiscal and operational decisions. It was originally authorized to last three years, but Baker said Thursday the board’s term would be extended until 2020.