Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff (center) takes a ride on light rail in 2016 with King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) on Wednesday, Sept. 21. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff (center) takes a ride on light rail in 2016 with King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) on Wednesday, Sept. 21. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

CEO of fast-growing Sound Transit system to step aside

The search will begin soon to replace Peter Rogoff, who leads the multibillion-dollar transportation network.

SEATTLE — Sound Transit will soon begin a nationwide search for a new CEO.

CEO Peter Rogoff won’t stay beyond 2022, board Chairman Kent Keel said at a regular meeting of the transit agency’s overseers Thursday. Neither Keel nor Rogoff said what the CEO’s plans are beyond next spring, when a newly approved contract expires.

“The exhilaration never really wanes, but the exhaustion sometimes spikes,” Rogoff said at the meeting.

The transit agency grew significantly after he took over as the top administrator in January 2016. During his tenure, light rail has spread north, south and east through the Seattle metropolitan area, and voters have supported taxes for expansion of bus rapid transit and more rail service.

Snohomish County Executive and Sound Transit board member Dave Somers praised Rogoff for overseeing the system’s growth, streamlining the agency, improving communication across departments, leading them through the pandemic, increasing public participation and securing federal loans. Previously, Somers has credited Rogoff with helping the board with decisions to prioritize ballot-approved ST3 projects after cost estimates soared.

“By any measure,” Rogoff was “very successful at getting us federal dollars at very low cost,” Somers said Thursday. “I just want to thank Peter.”

Rogoff was criticized for management style in 2018, when the board required him to change his behavior and improve relationships with staff. And in 2016, there was a complaint over comments he made that implied Black people needed more mentoring and assistance than their counterparts in the workplace, which Rogoff said were taken out of context. In 2017, a harassment complaint surfaced because Rogoff reportedly called a female employee “honey,” for which he later apologized.

Board member and Seattle City Councilmember Debbie Juarez said that despite their past disagreements, she appreciated Rogoff’s treatment of her and his work to work with tribes in the region.

“It’s been a bumpy road, I’m not gonna lie, but I have enjoyed working with Mr. Rogoff,” Juarez said.

Rogoff’s contract was extended until May to help with a transition. He’s set for a 3.25% increase to monthly compensation. His salary last year was about $385,000.

Keel said the board will begin its CEO search “immediately” because of crucial developments ahead, including light rail expansion to Lynnwood in 2024 and to Everett in 2034.

“I can’t be more optimistic about Sound Transit’s future,” Rogoff said.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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