Transportation czar hired from within
Salary issues loom as Richard Davey replaces Jeffrey Mullan
Gov. Deval Patrick today filled the post of transportation secretary by promoting from within, handing the job off to Richard Davey, the state’s rail and transit administrator and the MBTA’s general manager.
Davey, who currently manages 6,000 employees at the T, will oversee a total of 10,000 employees statewide when he takes his new post Sept. 1. His new salary will be $150,000 a year, $5,000 more than he is making right now.
Patrick said his search for a new transportation secretary was “brief and focused,” mostly on internal candidates. He had little choice, given the relatively low salary he was offering. Jeffrey Mullan, the outgoing transportation secretary, left in part because he considered the salary too low given the responsibilities. He said he plans to return to his old law firm of Foley Hoag.
Brian Kane, the budget and policy analyst at the MBTA Advisory Board, said he would like to see Davey look outside the T for candidates to fill his current job but doesn’t think many would be interested at the current salary level. As CommonWealth recently reported, T officials say the $145,000-a-year salary is the lowest of 13 similar-size transit systems around the country and $132,000 below the average.
“What Davey makes is very low, but they got him,” Kane said. “But I think it’s going to be a challenge to get somebody from the outside at that salary level.”
While praising Davey, many observers say he is somewhat unique, a solid executive who is able to work for a relatively low salary because his wife is a partner at a major law firm and they have no children.
Kane said there are good candidates within the T, including current chief operating officer John Lewis and Anna Barry, another top executive.
After the State House press conference where his appointment was announced, Davey said he didn’t foresee any problems attracting qualified candidates for the T job from outside and inside the agency. “Absolutely,” he said, when asked if an outside candidate would take the job for $145,000 a year. He also insisted the transportation secretary’s job is not too big for one person. “It’s manageable, absolutely,” he said.
The job won’t be easy. By any measure, the state’s transportation system is old, run down, and short of cash. Davey’s biggest task will be finding the revenue to keep it operating and improve it. He and other members of the Patrick administration have started to make the case for new revenues, but without much specificity.Asked about an increase in the gas tax, Patrick said it’s just one of many ideas that could be considered. Separately, US Sen. Scott Brown told reporters that he would not favor an increase in the gas tax.
“South Coast Rail is essential. It’s a question of economic justice. It’s a question of job creation,” Patrick said. (For an in-depth examination of South Coast Rail, click here for CommonWealth’s story.)