Politics & Government

Pierce Transit CEO announces she’ll retire at end of 2014

Lynne Griffith, Pierce Transit’s chief executive officer, announced Thursday she will retire at the end of this year after leading the agency through growth and cutbacks over the past eight years.

“We’re on the mend,” said Griffith, 64. “It’s time for another leader to come in and start carrying the ball forward.”

The transit system expanded after Griffith arrived in April 2006. But it later went through several rounds of job cuts and service reductions after the recession sent sales tax revenue plummeting in 2008.

Pierce Transit lost more revenue when its boundaries were shrunk in 2012 after smaller cities with little service, such as Sumner and Bonney Lake, decided they wanted out of the system.

Twice during the recession, the agency asked voters to raise the sales tax by three-tenths of 1 percent — and both times, voters said no.

Sales tax revenue has since reversed and been on the rise since the beginning of 2013, which caused Pierce Transit’s board to rescind a 31-percent budget cut last July. Some services have been added since then.

But annual service hours of 427,000 are still dramatically lower than the 617,000 hours that were in effect in 2008.

In May 2013, when a major cutback was still planned, Pierce Transit’s union for drivers, mechanics and other workers voted no confidence in Griffith.

The agency has 866 budgeted positions.

Griffith said Pierce Transit is stable now because of past reductions and increased sales tax revenue.

“We rightsized all the way through the recession,” she said.

Pierce Transit Board Chairman Rick Talbert said Griffth kept the agency moving forward during what was probably the most difficult time in its history.

He praised her for putting reserves in place that helped the agency through the recession.

“As bad as it was, it could have been worse,” Talbert said.

Talbert said he expects Pierce Transit will hire a search firm and conduct a nationwide search for Griffith’s successor.

Griffith has worked in public transportation for 25 years, first with three agencies in the Atlanta area and then as executive director of C-Tran, the transit system in Vancouver, Washington.

Griffith’s salary has remained at $169,097 since 2008. She receives 25 days of annual personal leave, in addition to three weeks of vacation.

She said she had planned to retire at the end of 2015 when her current, three-year contract expires.

Griffith said she decided to leave one year earlier because the agency recovered sooner than anticipated.

“I think it’s a good time,” Griffith said. “Things are going much better at Pierce Transit.”