Friday, November 30, 2007

Mountain Rides restructures management

Express Staff Writer

Jason Miller has been offered the position of executive director of Mountain Rides, a relatively new organization that combined three pre-existing public transportation organizations. Photo by David N. Seelig

Without announcing resolution to an ongoing personnel issue, the Mountain Rides Transportation Authority on Thursday afternoon voted unanimously to reorganize the public transportation agency's management structure.

The key change was to create an executive director position, which the board voted to offer to Jason Miller, who has been working as the organization's director of planning and market strategy.

Former Ketchum-area public transportation manager Terry Crawford, who was serving as Mountain Rides' co-director with Miller, was placed on paid administrative leave in late October. Peter Everett, Mountain Rides Transportation Authority board chairman, said Mountain Rides was continuing to negotiate with Crawford to resolve the personnel dispute, whose details have not been explained.

The board's decision came after an hour-and-a-half executive session. In subsequent discussions leading up to the vote, board member Jim Jaquet said the old structure had become "dysfunctional."

"I think this organizational change makes sense," he said. "We really do need an executive director."

Jaquet said the changes would enable Mountain Rides to speak with one voice and give it the ability to do a first-rate job.

The adjustment creates three departments within Mountain Rides--an operations department, a planning and marketing department, and a maintenance and facilities department. All three will answer to the executive director, which will be Miller if he accepts the offer.

Board member Beth Robrahn said the public transportation entity had first contemplated instituting an executive director model of management in May 2006.

"It made sense then, and for whatever reason we got away from that," she said. "It's the structure that makes the most sense."

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The decision to place Crawford on paid administrative leave was without explanation, but Crawford had accumulated more than 18 years as a north-valley manager of public transportation, and may well be the longest standing public transportation employee in the Wood River Valley.

He was placed on leave Oct. 30, and the eight-member Mountain Rides Transportation Authority met several times since then to work out wrinkles. Everett said Crawford's administrative leave is with full pay and benefits and began at 8 a.m. Oct. 30.

With the merger early last summer of Wood River Rideshare, KART and the Peak bus, all of the Wood River Valley's transportation services were placed under one administrative umbrella for the first time.

Miller is former executive director of Rideshare. He and Crawford were appointed co-directors of the new Mountain Rides organization in early May.

KART provided free bus service in Ketchum. The Peak bus provided service between Sun Valley and Bellevue. Rideshare promoted alternative transportation and operated a van-pool program for commuters outside the Wood River Valley.

"We have thought very seriously about current employees who can fill that (Mountain Rides executive director) position, and we are lucky to have Jason Miller on board already," Everett said.

Jaquet said he has carefully observed Miller in his capacity as director of planning and market strategy.

"I believe he has all the requisite skills to assume the job of executive director," he said.

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