BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The resignation of the current CATS CEO was accepted and an interim CEO was named during a special board meeting Friday.
The CATS Board of Commissioners appointed William "Bill" Deville to fill in for current CEO Bob Mirabito, whose last day is May 6.
"Some things have been done and accomplished, a lot more to do, I want to be part of that legacy," Deville said.
His contract as interim CEO will last for the next four months. That can be extended up to a year. His salary is set at $150,000.
Deville has worked in transit management for more than three decades. He ran the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans for several years, including during Katrina.
He was promoted to his current position from within. He previously worked as the Chief Revenue Officer of CATS and as a contract worker for the system for the past few years.
"He's covered just about every aspect of transit management you can possibly cover in a career," said Jim Brandt, president of CATS board.
Deville said he aims to make the bus system more efficient by evaluating current routes.
"We've got to focus on improving service, making this transit system an economic generator, and serving the public," Deville said.
Mirabito submitted his resignation Tuesday, stating that the impact on his family as a hired public figure was one important factor to leave.
During his tenure, Mirabito worked to take on alleged corruption within the bus system, while also increasing the number of buses and routes. Still he fell under scrutiny, especially after he took a pay raise and also made controversial comments on a local radio show.
"He attracted more than his fair share of detractors. Some of the attacks have been personal in nature and I think that bothered him and his family," Brandt said.
In his resignation later, Mirabito wrote that the tipping point was when a stranger approached his son, who wore a shirt with his name across the back, and asked "if his dad was the CATS CEO."
"While my resignation may surprise some, the reason for leaving is personal. I have never truly been comfortable in the public arena and everything that goes with it," Mirabito wrote. "I came to CATS in 2013 because I believed I could make a difference; I feel I have and things are better than they were when I arrived. It has become evident, however, that the external focus has shifted from the agency as a whole to me individually."
Some board members praised the work Mirabito did turning his time as CEO.
"CATS appreciates the work Bob has done and the changes he has introduced at the Agency," said Brandt. "While I am saddened by his decision, I know we are in a better position to provide the transit service Baton Rouge deserves, and that is a result of Bob and the team he has assembled at CATS. We wish Bob well in his future endeavors."
Some, including East Baton Rouge mayoral candidate John Delgado, have called for a much larger change to CATS. He would like to see the system under private management.
The board president and others, including EBR Metro councilwoman and CATS Board Member Donna Collins-Lewis, have objected to that idea.
"In some cases it has worked, in many other cases it has not. It has cost more. It has left the agency in some cases hostage to a private company, and I think that is a concern as well," Brandt said.
A search committee was also formed to seek out a full-time replacement. Deville can apply to keep his job permanently.
Hours after the board meeting, Deville joined CATS workers for a community meeting at the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Center in North Baton Rouge.
The focus of the meeting was bus safety, with some expressing concerns over the safety and maintenance of the CATS buses. Wait times and problematic bus routes were also discussed at the meeting.
"I come from the San Francisco Bay Area and I'm telling you, if our passengers wait more than 10 to 15 minutes for a bus or a train, there's a riot going on," said Antonette Bryant, the international representative for Amalgamated Transit Union. "And 10 minutes is good, but you shouldn't have to wait in the rain, in the heat for two or three hours."
Union representatives for CATS workers were in town from Washington for the meeting, calling for the creation of a fund to improve the buses. They brought up ideas like an increased hotel tax to help fund transit.