The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Board of Directors Thursday appointed the organization’s first female CEO, who takes over for former CEO Paul Jablonski, who died this weekend.

Sharon Cooney was appointed with unanimous approval by the MTS Board of Directors, and takes over after posts that include MTS deputy CEO, director of government affairs, director of planning and chief of staff.

“Sharon has all the qualities to manage a large transit agency like MTS,” said MTS Board Chair and San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

“At no time in the history of MTS has there been a clearer need for strong and reliable leadership. Sharon brings passion, institutional knowledge, and a track record of success to the job. She has been performing at a high level as deputy chief executive officer and chief of staff for years. The entire board is confident that Sharon is the right person to keep MTS as one of the nation’s top transit agencies,” Fletcher said.

The MTS said Cooney was integral to San Diego’s Trolley Renewal and Mid-Coast Trolley Extension projects, among others.

“I am honored that the board expressed confidence in me,” said Cooney. “I think the board also understands that Mr. Jablonski assembled one of the best staffs in the entire country. I am lucky to have been mentored by one of the nation’s most respected transit leaders and to have a group of professionals that are absolutely dedicated to advancing public transit in San Diego. We are all ready to take on the challenges today and into the future.”

Jablonski, 67, died Sunday. He worked 16 years at MTS and is survived by his wife, four children and grandchildren.

“We are shocked and saddened about the passing of Paul,” Fletcher said in a statement issued Sunday. “He was a good man who not only ran a great agency but was a respected national transit industry leader. The entire MTS family is grieving right now, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Paul’s family.”

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