Metro Messed-Up

Everybody is reporting today that embattled Metro chief Larry Salci will soon be out of a job -- perhaps as early as this afternoon -- after the agency lost its lawsuit against the Cross County Collaborative.

The office of County Executive Charlie Dooley has called a 2 p.m. news conference on the subject -- though I’m not clear if Dooley is going to call for Salci’s resignation, or if the county executive will announce that Salci has agreed -- or volunteered -- to step down. The rumor is that Salci has agreed, under pressure, to resign, but sources in a variety of government offices will not confirm that and are passing the buck among one another as to who exactly may have put Salci under the gun.

This much is clear: The head of Metro is not expected at the news conference. Take from that what you will.

There’ve been some mentions in local media of “Metro Messy,” our 2005 Salci profile that described his prickly personality and the changes he made at Metro after coming out of retirement at his vacation home in Hilton Head, South Carolina, in 2002. I didn’t attend a single session of the 100-day trial in county court, but according to the Post-Dispatch, at least one passage from our story made its way into court proceedings.

Jennifer Silverberg
Metro chief Larry Salci: From the train line to the firing line.
Salci was pretty open with me back in 2005 when I reported that story. Along with Metro’s head of governmental affairs, Adella Jones, we rode MetroLink for several hours and wrapped up the three- or four-hour adventure with a conversation back at his office. I left thinking he was a pretty intelligent guy, not to mention dogged, and obsessed with raising Metro’s profile.

I could also see local politicians’ point about his apparent lack of enthusiasm for political back-scratching. Honesty notwithstanding, it seems rather bold to say something like, “The only people I really care about that have any influence with me are my ten commissioners who hired me. And I care what Wall Street thinks about me. And I care what my headhunters think about me, in case I've got to go someplace [else]. Other than that, I just don't care,” if you recognize how much influence people like Mayor Francis Slay and County Executive Dooley have on the commissioners who make or break your future. (That was a quote from Salci that made it into the trial record.)

But since that time I’ve talked informally with many more Metro employees about what they think of Salci. Within the transit agency building, especially among managers, he’s a pretty popular guy. As one upper-level employee told me recently, “He’s definitely not a butt-kisser. But a lot of Metro employees really respect him. They think he has great ideas, they like the way he delegates and lets you take charge. A lot of us think he’s a good leader.”

-Kristen Hinman

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