Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas transit chief resigns in 'huge blow' to rail efforts

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority executive director Tim Garling resigned Wednesday, creating an unexpected void in efforts to bring light rail to Pinellas County.

Garling is leaving to become director of Broward County Transit, the second-largest transit system in the state.

Garling, who leaves Oct. 18, called it a better career opportunity. He said he will earn about $3,000 more than his $153,500 annual salary in Pinellas.

The larger system will offer "significant challenges and opportunities for me professionally," Garling wrote in his resignation letter. Broward handles about 38 rides an hour compared to PSTA's 22, Garling said.

Garling, 52, was hired here in 2007 because he helped oversee the development of rail in Portland, Ore. Advocates for rail and expanded bus service in Pinellas — where transit funding lags behind other large areas — hoped Garling could help orchestrate a local referendum in 2011 or 2012.

Even if a successful referendum was held, more buses and a rail system would still be a decade away, according to PSTA estimates.

County Commissioner Ken Welch called Garling's departure a huge blow to rail efforts.

St. Petersburg City Council member Jeff Danner said Garling's exit leaves the county flat-footed as it embarks on a new push for passenger rail.

"It's horrible timing," Danner said. "Tim was the only one in the county who had built a rail system. It's disappointing to lose someone who had done more than run a bus system and knew how to apply for grants that could pay for rail. It's going to be difficult to fill those shoes."

Garling had support from most board members, but faced some rocky times. Last year, board member Julie Bujalski questioned his actions when he broke a PSTA rule by paying invoices that exceeded board-approved prices to a company hired to transport disabled residents.

"We didn't think he was doing a bad job. We just thought we should have been informed about this," said County Commissioner Neil Brickfield, a board member.

Dismissing any serious disagreements with the board, Garling said he understood the fears about how his departure would affect rail. But the county has put itself in a good position to move forward, he said, given the start of an 18-month study with state and regional transit agencies on corridors for trains.

"Fantastic progress has been made the past three years," Garling said.

Broward recruited Garling after an unsuccessful national search to fill its top post. Given Broward's difficulty, Danner worried it may be hard to replace Garling.

"If we do a national search, we might find the same thing," Danner said. "There's just no one out there."

Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas transit chief resigns in 'huge blow' to rail efforts 09/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 5:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Manhattan Casino controversy resumes after taking a break for Irma

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration has once again found itself defending its controversial choice of the Callaloo Group to open a "Floribbean" restaurant in the historic but currently empty Manhattan Casino.

  2. At Menorah Manor, planning paid off during Irma

    Nursing Homes

    ST. PETERSBURG — Doris Rosenblatt and her husband, Frank, have lived in Florida all of their lives, so they know about hurricanes.

    Raisa Collins, 9, far left, works on a craft project as Certified Nursing Assistant Shuntal Anthony holds Cassidy Merrill, 1, while pouring glue for Quanniyah Brownlee, 9, right, at Menorah Manor in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15. To help keep its patients safe during Hurricane Irma, Menorah Manor allowed employees to shelter their families and pets at the nursing home and also offered daycare through the week. The facility was able to accommodate and feed everyone who weathered the storm there. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. Carlton: The cross atop the church that moved, and other strange tales from Hurricane Irma

    Hurricanes

    Down in Miami, the famous tan-don't-burn Coppertone Girl on the side of a building lost her head — part of it, at least, the top of her blond hair lopped off in the fierce winds of Hurricane Irma. ("At least her tan line and doggie weathered the storm," the Miami Herald noted optimistically.)

    Hurricane Irma partly decapitated the Coppertone Girl in Miami. [Miami Herald]
  4. After Irma, nursing homes scramble to meet a hard deadline

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's nursing homes and assisted-living facilities find themselves in an unfamiliar place this week — pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's administration over new rules that require them to purchase generator capacity by Nov. 15 to keep their residents safe and comfortable in a power …

    In this Sept. 13 photo, a woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood. Nine have died and patients had to be moved out of the facility, many of them on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Authorities have launched a criminal investigation to figure out what went wrong and who, if anyone, was to blame. [Amy Beth Bennett | South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP]