Ben Franklin Transit’s general manager is out after just one year.
The agency’s board voted not to renew Dennis Solensky’s contract.
“I am very excited about moving forward and pursuing my next endeavor.,” Solensky said Tuesday in an email to the Herald.
There was no particular incident that led to the decision, said Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins, the transit board chairman. The board was looking for someone with different skills, he said.
“I don’t think we were performing quite at the expectations of the full board,” he said.
Solensky, who led the public transit system in Erie, Pa., for 12 years, was one of 86 applicants for the position after Tim Fredrickson, the manager for 18 years, resigned in December 2013.
Solensky was chosen in April 2014 over the other finalist, Bill Forsythe of Valley View, Texas, who led several private transportation contractors. Solensky, who started last May, was paid $140,000 a year.
Gloria Boyce, Ben Franklin Transit’s finance manager, will serve as interim general manager while the board searches for a new manager, Watkins said.
The agency has 279 employees, with an annual budget of $34.4 million, Boyce said.
Ben Franklin Transit statistics show it had 2.824 million passenger trips on its fixed-route buses last year, up from 2.789 million in 2013. Total fare revenue, which also includes van pool and demand response vehicles, increased to $4.22 million in 2014 from $3.826 million the year before.
Solensky had reached the end of a probationary period, and the board decided not to keep him, said Franklin County Commissioner Rick Miller, chairman of the transit board’s operations and maintenance committee.
“I really like the man, but he really didn’t quite fit with what we were looking for with transit in our community,” he said.
Miller would have liked to have seen Solensky attend more community events. And he will be looking for a manager who works better with the transit staff.
Minutes from the board’s December meeting show Solensky made an effort to improve the atmosphere in the administrative office, bringing in Steven Covey consultants and the leadership program, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Ben Franklin Transit used an internal search to find Solensky. Miller said he would like to use an outside firm to find his replacement, similar to what Franklin County did when it recently hired the Prothman Company of Issaquah for $24,500 to help it search for a new county administrator.
Miller found that Solensky’s performance was different than what was indicated in his resume and job interviews.
“We’re looking for somebody who is looking 15 to 20 years down the road, to really lead this place better,” Miller said.
The board will consider both internal and external candidates, Watkins said. He is confident Boyce will do a good job managing the agency until a permanent replacement is found.
Getting the right person will be important, said Richland City Councilman Terry Christensen, also a transit board member.
“It provides a service that is absolutely needed,” he said. “We need to make sure the taxpayers are getting their bang for the buck.”
Solensky described himself as a “truly results-driven CEO” in his resume. The Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority employed 250 people and managed a $20 million budget. The transit board in Erie voted in October 2013 not to renew Solensky’s contract.