Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Gabe Klein: Gray administration 'not a good fit'

December 8, 2010 - 12:12 PM
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Gabe Klein DDOT
Gabe Klein: Out at DDOT (Photo: TBD Staff)

District Department of Transportation director Gabe Klein learned via a letter delivered to his office Monday night that he will not stay on to serve in the administration of Mayor-elect Vincent Gray. He's not alone: The Washington Business Journal has since reported that Valerie Santos (deputy mayor for planning and economic development), Linda Argo (Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs), Bryan Sivak (chief technology officer), Joseph Walsh (Department of Employment Services) and Lee Smith (Department of Small and Local Business Development) also received formal notice from the Gray transition team that they would not be asked to stick around.

But Klein, who has developed something of a cult following among the smart growth, urbanist set, was the only one to call an immediate press conference to talk about his departure.

"I will be leaving my post and stepping down as DDOT director as of January 1," said Klein. "I took this post 22 months ago, not even two full years, and am extremely proud of what the District Department of Transportation has done during that time."

Klein thanked outgoing Mayor Adrian Fenty in a brief statement delivered to reporters in a conference room in the Reeves Center.  He cited his work on multiple street scape projects, the ultimately successful bid to fund the completion of two streetcar lines, and the launch of Capital Bikeshare, the city's newly expanded shared bicycle service, which he said was maybe his biggest legacy. His time at DDOT was "the best work experience of my life," he said.

He also said he was "not terribly surprised" by Gray's decision, that he had had an inkling for at least the last month, and had not spoken to Gray since September. "I didn't really talk to him much after the streetcar kerfuffle, to be honest," Klein said, referring to Gray's midnight move to cut funding for the streetcar before quickly restoring it under pressure from constituents.

Even if Gray had asked him to stay, Klein admitted he now has concerns about the future direction of the agency under Gray. The budget amendment the D.C. Council gave preliminary approval to Tuesday includes a provision to eliminate a special "unified" fund that allowed the transportation department more flexibility than most other agencies. Klein said the proposed change would transform DDOT from "an enterprise agency to a more standard type of agency."

"It's probably not a good fit for me going forward," he said, calling the surprise budget move "a bit demoralizing for the team."

Without the flexible fund, Klein said getting projects like Capital Bikeshare off the ground "would be more challenging."

Gray has called a press conference for later this afternoon, where he is expected to name his city administrator and chief of staff.

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