The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors Thursday unanimously appointed Stephanie Wiggins, current CEO of Metrolink, as L.A. Metro’s CEO, making her the first woman to lead the agency.
The current L.A. Metro CEO, Phillip A. Washington, announced on Feb. 3 that he is stepping down in May after six years. The Board of Directors conducted a national search for the next CEO and voted to appoint Wiggins during its Board of Directors meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday to appoint Wiggins.
“We know that Stephanie Wiggins is prepared to carry us into the next extraordinary chapter of this agency’s story, getting more buses on the streets with our next-gen bus plan, making sure that anyone can hop on the regional connector and ride from East L.A. all the way to the coast, bringing world-class transit to our densest urban corridors and realizing our dream of a fare-less system,” Mayor Eric Garcetti, who serves as chair of Metro’s Board of Directors, said during a news conference Thursday afternoon to announce the appointment to the public.
Wiggins’ four-year term as L.A. Metro CEO will begin between May 30 and June 14. Her annual salary is set at $400,004.80 and her term will be extendable by a pair of one-year options at the board’s discretion.
“My immediate goals and focus will be on restoring transit service and helping Metro lead this county out of the pandemic and into a new dawn, where customers come first and equity is at the center of everything we do,” Wiggins said Thursday in a news conference after the vote.
“I will lead this agency with an unwavering commitment to equity and compassion, providing the best possible transportation service to the people of Los Angeles. Promoting health equity is essential to my strategic operational vision for L.A. Metro and as we grow our transportation infrastructure, we should consider not only how it equitably improves the lives of the people who use it, we must be motivated by the impact on health equity to accelerate program delivery and play an active role in advancing racial justice and economic opportunity for all L.A. County residents.”
Wiggins previously served as L.A. Metro’s deputy chief executive officer, where she assisted in the passage of Measure M, which raised funds for transportation through a half-percent sales tax. She also served as L.A. Metro’s executive director of vendor/contract management before joining Metrolink.
“We welcome you back to this family with such open arms, your knowledge, your experience, are more than enough to qualify you for this job, but at this moment in time it’s also impossible not to recognize that you will be the first woman and the first Black woman to hold this job,” Garcetti said to Wiggins and the board of directors before the vote.
After being unanimously appointed as CEO of Metrolink at the end of 2018, Wiggins became the multi-county commuter rail agency’s first female CEO, as well as its first Black CEO.
At Metrolink, she managed a $793 million annual budget and 282 full-time employees. At L.A. Metro, she will oversee its multi-billion-dollar budget, which this fiscal year was $6 billion.
Before the vote to appoint Wiggins, several Metro board directors praised Wiggins and expressed excitement about her taking over the roll.
“My concern is it’s going to be part of my legacy that under my watch Metrolink lost its best CEO ever … because that is literally true,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who is on the board of both Metro and Metrolink.
L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who also sits on the board, said in a statement after the vote that Wiggins was “the obvious choice” for the role.
“She is experienced and capable and has the vision necessary to lead this large, complex and critically important agency. Stephanie puts people first and understands that Metro’s work is about improving public transportation for everyone. As the first woman of color to serve as Metro’s CEO she will be shattering a long-standing glass ceiling and opening doors for so many more women to follow,” Hahn said.
Wiggins’ prior transportation experience also includes serving as regional program director for Riverside County Transportation Commission, where she oversaw transit, commuter rail, rideshare, goods movement and rail capital projects. Her first role in the transportation industry was on a temporary six-month assignment at the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, where she stayed for four years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Whittier College in 1992 and a Master of Business Administration from the USC Marshall School of business in 2007.
Many L.A. Metro board members expressed that the moment was bitter-sweet due to the retirement of current CEO Phillip Washington.
“Phil Washington has been a visionary leader, a force for trailblazing growth and lasting progress across our transit network,” Garcetti said. “Phil leaves this agency better off than he found it — a legacy of an expanding public transportation system that gets Angelenos where they need to go and remains a force for sustainability, equity, jobs, workforce development and shared prosperity across the L.A. area.”
The L.A. Metro Board of Directors also voted Thursday to appoint Metrolink Board Secretary Collette Langston to be L.A. Metro’s Board Secretary. She previously served as L.A. Metro’s senior transportation planner, board specialist and accounts payable clerk.