Metro is in negotiations to keep General Manager Richard Sarles for another two years.
Sarles became Metro's top official in 2011 with a three-year agreement, earning $350,000 a year. Now that he's finished his second year, Metro is negotiating to keep him for two more years after his contract expires in 2014, Metro board Chairman Tom Downs announced Thursday.
Downs said the Metro board of directors asked Sarles to stay, and Sarles agreed to negotiations.
"We have, in summary, a general manager and CEO that is fully committed to safety, is an effective leader who demonstrates a drive for excellence and is respected for his knowledge of the industry," Downs said. "During these years of constant change the general manager and CEO has been able to continue to move the authority forward on a much more stable basis than the turbulence he inherited."
Sarles, 67, an engineer by training, arrived at Metro in 2010 on an interim basis after retiring as executive director of New Jersey Transit. Metro leaders credited him with stabilizing the agency after the tumultuous reign of former General Manager John Catoe and the Red Line crash of 2009, in which nine people died and dozens more were injured.
"We really think he's doing a great job," said Metro board member Mortimer Downey. "And that was one of our first items of discussion with him when it came time to do his annual evaluation."
But Metro has continued to face challenges, including constantly broken escalators, continued failure to meet on-time bus goals and communications breakdowns such as the Green Line emergency last month that left thousands of riders stranded in dark, hot trains underground and led hundreds to self-evacuate.
Downey said Sarles wanted to commit only to an additional two years. His contract will go before the full board for approval after negotiations with Downs.
The Metro board announced the news on the same day it bid farewell to Dave Kubicek, Metro's No. 2 official, who will resign March 18 -- during the same month Metro will lose another top official, Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn, who is retiring.
Kubicek's sudden departure remained a mystery for many Thursday, as he did not announce any new job.
"It's a personal and professional decision," Kubicek said, adding that he had been planning to depart Metro and return home to Texas. "I'll take a little time off and evaluate some things."