More leadership rubber hits the road Thursday afternoon as Lewisville and Denton send new representatives to serve on the Denton County Transportation Authority Board of Directors.
Denton Mayor Chris Watts and longtime Lewisville City Council member T.J. Gilmore are stepping in as the DCTA board shrinks, by law, to five voting members.
No sense of the major changes shows on the DCTA agenda for Thursday, likely because most happened within the past few days. Board Chairman Charles Emery resigned May 15. Head of the agency since its inception in 2002, Emery had been Lewisville’s representative to the board. Gilmore was appointed Monday to replace him. On Tuesday night, Watts replaced Sara Bagheri, who had just joined the DCTA board as board secretary in December.
In an interview Wednesday, Watts said he didn’t expect the DCTA board to elect new officers this week because it’s not on the agenda. Dianne Costa, the board vice chairwoman, remains Highland Village’s representative to the board.
But Watts wouldn’t say whether he hoped to serve DCTA beyond his term as mayor, which ends in 2020.
“For me, it’s as long as the council wants me to be the representative,” Watts said.
He told fellow council members Tuesday night his desire to serve in the post wasn’t a power play.
“It’s merely trying to continue the work which I started,” Watts said, adding he sometimes “wasn’t the most popular person in the room” as he and others negotiated for the leadership changes at DCTA.
City and county officials met with DCTA behind closed doors for several months late last year to hammer out a plan for reforms after DCTA’s former CEO, Jim Cline, was forced out. The biggest change came with new legislation that concentrated the voting power with the “member cities” where DCTA collects a half-cent sales tax: Denton, Lewisville and Highland Village.
That law went into effect Saturday.
Denton City Manager Todd Hileman told council members Tuesday night the reforms are meant to increase the agency’s accountability. DCTA’s base sales tax budget allows the agency to leverage more regional, state and federal money to help people get around. But the member cities have been clamoring for a better accounting of how the money is being spent on transit services within their city limits, particularly since A-train ridership has dropped steadily for the past five years.
Denton County has two representatives on the board, David Kovatch and Don Hartman, reflecting the county’s capital investment in the A-train. But the county itself does not contribute to the agency’s annual budget.
As the new representatives make changes in the boardroom and to DCTA governance, city managers from the member cities are expected to set up a work group to examine the agency further, Hileman said.
“The managers will form a different committee to take a look at the finances and the action plan of DCTA,” Hileman said. “Both items were contemplated to work in unison for the upcoming budget year.”
Highland Village already appointed its city manager, Michael Leavitt, as an alternate to the board. The Denton City Council appointed Bagheri as a DCTA board alternate Tuesday night in a split vote, but Bagheri resigned the post Wednesday morning. She also resigned her post to the Denton Housing Authority and asked not to be considered for future appointments.
The DCTA board meeting begins with a work session at 1:30 p.m. at the DCTA offices, 1955 Lakeway Drive, Suite 260, in Lewisville.