JTA terminates CEO's contract 2 years early

Michael Blaylock has been executive director for 10 years

Published On: Mar 23 2012 11:32:00 AM EDT   Updated On: Mar 23 2012 04:29:16 PM EDT

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority board voted unanimously Friday to terminate the contract of its CEO, Michael Blaylock, nearly two years early.

Blaylock's contract was to last until 2014. It was revised so his tenure will end Sept. 30.

Blaylock said it was his decision and he was not forced out.

"I think now is the time, it's a great opportunity for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority to transform and transition," Blaylock told the board. "I have served in this capacity for 10 years. I have loved every moment of it, but I have been in public service for 35 years, and the last 30 years being with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority."

JTA Chairman Ed Burr told the board of JTA's significant accomplishments during Blaylock's tenure, including successful completion of 31 Better Jacksonville Plan projects valued at more than a half-billion dollars largely on budget and on time, the acquisition of nearly $200 million in discretionary grant funding to advance transportation projects in northeast Florida, significant enhancement to transit rider amenities, including bus shelters, and dramatic increases in customer satisfaction.

"Michael has served the Authority with dedication and distinction, and in my many years of knowing him, Mr. Blaylock has always put the needs of the Authority and the public it serves first," Burr said. "His approach to this transition process is another example of this."

Burr also said Blaylock wasn't forced out. He acknowledged the problems JTA has been experiencing, but said they will be handled.

"Well, we don't want Michael out of here," Burr said. "Michael is going to help address those issues as he finishes his tenure. He will continue doing the great job he has always done. We expect improvement in those areas in this Authority and a smooth transition to the next leadership."

"More Importantly, this is a great opportunity for the Authority to look at new leadership," Blaylock said. "Step back. There are all kinds of great things going on in the industry. You were charged with the responsibility of getting Better Jacksonville done and a host of other things, and we have done that."

Blaylock has also dealt with some tough issues as head of JTA, including problems with the Skyway, such as people not paying fares and broken equipment, brought to light by a Channel 4 investigation, and a Florida Times-Union investigation into bus drivers' background checks and drivers with criminal histories and driving violations.

The transition agreement approved by the board reduces Blaylock's severance under the existing contract by half. When Blaylock leaves in September, he will receive a full-year's salary of about $287,000.

Blaylock made history when he was promoted as the first African-American executive director within the agency.

JTA board members will begin a national search for a new executive director during its monthly meeting Thursday. The current deputy executive director, Blair Fishburn, said he's interested in the position and expects to be a candidate.