CLEVELAND -- A lifetime transit professional, Joe Calabrese of Syracuse has been chosen as the new Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA).
His appointment is expected to be formally approved by the Board of Trustees at their Feb. 22 meeting, says Board President George F. Dixon III. Calabrese will attend that 9 a.m. meeting and be introduced to the public. He starts work at RTA on Feb. 28 as the sixth person in RTA's 25-year history to lead the Authority.
"This process started in August, when Ron Tober resigned," Dixon says. "The Board took the time to find the right candidate, because we believe that RTA deserves the best leadership possible. Now, it's time to move forward with Joe Calabrese, who has exceptional qualifications for this job."
Dixon says the board was looking for someone with at least 5-10 years of experience in public transit, preferably as a General Manager, and who had a proven record of strong leadership. "We found those qualities in Joe Calabrese," Dixon says. "We are pleased to have him here in Cleveland."
Calabrese, 47, has visited Cleveland a number of times, and he likes what he sees.
"I see in Cleveland a resurging city on a tremendous rebound," he says. "Downtown is clean and vibrant, and Tower City is an attractive upscale shopping mall, something not often seen in downtown areas. This is a friendly community. RTA is facing some tremendous and exciting opportunities. The projects on the drawing board will have a significant and positive impact on economic development and job growth."
Calabrese says RTA has a strong reputation in transit circles for having "a first-class, professional executive management team."
"I have been in public transit for 25 years, and have always believed in a strong entrepreneurial approach," he says.
From 1993 to November 1999, he was Executive Director and President of the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (Centro), which supervises seven counties, four city transit systems and the regional carpooling service. The agency has an annual operating budget of $27 million and a $50 million capital plan.
At Centro, he reversed a 15-year trend and increased ridership by "listening and responding to customers."
For the past three months, he has worked in the private sector as the National Director of Business Development with C&S Engineering. The firm, based in Syracuse, has a Cleveland office.
From 1994 to 1999, he served on the board of the New York Public Transit Association, the largest statewide trade association of its kind in the nation. He led the group as President in 1998-99. He is also active in the American Public Transit Association (APTA).
Calabrese started his transit career in 1975, working at Centro in a number of areas -- operations, labor relations, human resources, safety and training, and government relations. He was Assistant General Manager when he left in 1986 to co-found a private company, MetroVision of North America Inc., which provides passenger information systems to the mass transportation and aviation industries.
From 1986 to December 1993, he took the company public and established regional offices in the nation's five largest mass transit markets -- Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. He sold the company to return to Centro as Executive Director.
In a 1998 national study, he was named one of the most innovative and creative managers in the transit industry
"I want to use a business-like spirit to promote and develop RTA," Calabrese says. "RTA is part of the community, and we need to be active in it. I believe in working hard, having fun and being creative."
Calabrese says Clarence D. Rogers Jr. will assist him in the transition. Rogers has served as Interim General Manager since Tober resigned.
Calabrese has a degree in economics from Syracuse University and a MBA from the University of Buffalo.
His wife, Debra, is a school teacher in the Syracuse area. They have two adult sons.