Fenty Names Four New Agency Heads

Fenty Names Four New Agency Heads was originally published on City Desk on Dec. 31, 2008, at 1:34 pm

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty today named a bunch of new executive honchos to new jobs. He’s tapped Gabe Klein to head up DDOT; Lee A. Smith III to take over the Department of Small and Local Business Development; Bridget Davis to take over his policy and lobbying shop; and Tracy Sandler to replace Davis at the Office of Boards and Commissions.

The most attention-grabbing choice is his pick to lead the Department of Transportation. Probably more eyes were/will be on this pick than any of the others because of the ongoing campaigning by planning geeks/urbanists to put someone in charge who’s at the cutting edge of urban transit trends. In a perfect world—barring somehow convincing current NYC transpo commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to slum it in the District—they’d like to see a clone of Sadik-Khan, someone with a proven record of advocating for multimodal transit options, not just finding the most efficient ways to move cars through the city.

Is Klein that? Doesn’t look like it. [UPDATE, 2 P.M.: LL may have spoken too soon; a "gabe klein" signed David Alpert's form letter asking for a "visionary" DDOT leader, adding these personal comments: "I agree, love Michelle Rhee, Harriet Tregoning, and of course Dan Tangherlini. Lets bring someone of that caliber in to take over DDOT, a hugely important position in Washington. For instance, without Dan Tangherlini's vision, carsharing would not be what it is in Washington (one of the top carsharing cities in the U.S.)"]

His biggest job in transportation is his four years on the job as regional vice president of Zipcar. That’s certainly a business that’s taken a progressive view of urban transportation and has more likely than not contributed to the removal of personal cars from city streets, but it’s not a position that’s required any experience with managing public transportation, bicycling, pedestrian access and safety, or any of the other stuff he’ll have to be dealing with.

Since he left Zipcar, he’s headed up On the Fly, the vending and mobile catering business that’s helped end the street-vending monopoly held by the half-smoke crowd. (He also did the catering for Fenty’s birthday party/fundraiser earlier this month.) The telling lines from the press release announcing Klein’s appointment tout that Klein has “over 12 years experience leading marketing, business development, and operations efforts for both start-up and established retail, transportation and technology-oriented companies. Klein has proven experience partnering with government and business sectors in the District of Columbia.”

In other words, this guy has the get-it-done DNA Hizzoner loves to see in his agency heads—something he loves to see a lot more than actual expertise in the area they’ll be working in. And from Klein, Fenty can expect loyalty.

Davis, tapped to replace JoAnne Ginsberg as his chief of policy and legislative affairs, is another Fenty loyalist without a showstopping resume. More to the point, she’s not exactly known in key D.C. Council offices the way Ginsberg had been. She’s been with Fenty since Day 1 of his mayoralty, first in his community-relations shop, then as head of the Office of Boards and Commissions. Replacing her there, in a job that manages the mayor’s hold on various organs of government, is Tracy Sandler, a staffer in Fenty’s communications office since March.

Smith has the strongest resume and weakest Fenty ties of the four. He’ll be leaving a job as director of administration and government affairs for the Washington Convention Center Authority, where he was brought in by CEO Greg O’Dell to bring things into line after Reba Pittman Walker left in May. He had previously done a stint as chief of staff to O’Dell at the Sports and Entertainment Commission, helping to oversee ballpark construction. Before that, he’d done a long stretch for about-to-be-former At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz as legislative counsel and committee clerk.

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