Ramirez out, Poftak in as T general manager
Separation agreement calls for ex-GM to receive about $152,400
This story was updated at 2 p.m. to include compensation information.
LUIS RAMIREZ IS OUT as general manager of the MBTA after just 15 months on the job and the Baker administration is replacing him with Steve Poftak, a member of the T’s oversight board who filled the GM’s seat for two months before Ramirez took over.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said Ramirez brought badly needed business skills to the T but the needs of the transit agency have changed and new leadership is needed. “The time has come to see visible improvements in performance and Steve is the right guy to do that,” she said.
While Pollack tried to put a positive change on the switch, the move to ditch Ramirez was an embarrassing acknowledgement by Pollack and Gov. Charlie Baker that they picked the wrong man for the job. His departure means more executive suite turmoil at an agency that has been battered by it for years; Poftak will become the fifth general manager under Baker.
Insiders say Baker and most others at the T concluded a year later that Ramirez wasn’t working out, but he was kept on while the governor was running for reelection and his Democratic challenger Jay Gonzalez was calling for Ramirez to be fired.
Ramirez was a businessman who had no transit experience and no political skills. His cautious approach was reflected in his style at meetings of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, where he read all his presentations and rarely ventured off script.
Insiders say Pollack gave Ramirez a year to get his act together but apparently he never measured up. Pollack occasionally referred to him as the “internal general manager,” sources said.
In a press release issued by the T, Ramirez was quoted as saying it was time to move on. “I was brought in to the MBTA from the outside corporate world to bring a fresh business perspective and skills to the MBTA,” he said. “With the progress we have achieved around financial and operational execution, this is a good time to transition to someone with different skill sets.”
Poftak, who is the vice chairman of the Fiscal and Management Control Board and the executive director of the Rappaport Institute at Harvard, will take over the reins of the T on January 1. Until then, Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville will serve as acting general manager.
Poftak knows all the players at the T and on Beacon Hill, and is very familiar with the T’s challenges from his work on the control board. “He knows the organization and its people. He’s going to hit the ground running,” Pollack said.
Ramirez, who was selected after what was billed as a national search, was given a base salary of $320,000 a year, far more than previous general managers had received. His separation agreement with the T said his “termination date” was Monday and he would receive a severance payment of three months’ salary, or about $81,200, plus $44,600 in lieu of a bonus payment. He will also receive $26,600 as reimbursement for “making himself reasonably available and shall provide his full cooperation to facilitiate the transition.”