By Audra Streetman

DENVER (CBS4) – Debra Johnson is the first woman to serve as general manager and CEO of the Regional Transportation District. The agency’s board of directors voted Tuesday night to finalize Johnson’s 5-year contract with an annual salary of $315,000.

Debra Johnson (credit: RTD)

Johnson’s first day on the job is Nov. 9. RTD launched a nationwide search to fill the position in May after former General Manager and CEO Dave Genova retired in Jan.

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RTD is currently operating at about 60% of its service level before the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency is considering budget and staff adjustments to account for an estimated $166 deficit for 2021.

(credit: CBS)

Johnson said she is prepared to stand in solidarity with employees by taking similar pay reductions and furlough days.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with the great men and women who keep RTD moving 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I will stand with the men and women of the organization and have my salary temporarily adjusted as we navigate the year ahead,” said Johnson.

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Johnson currently serves as Deputy CEO of Long Beach Transit in California. She has more than 25 years of experience, including positions at transportation agencies in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“We are excited to have Ms. Johnson on board. She is a top-notch candidate and the package we have agreed upon is reasonable, given her talent and the current circumstances the agency faces,” RTD Chair Angie Rivera-Malpiede said. “We have much to do to continue to serve this community in these unprecedented times, and we are eager to get started with Ms. Johnson as our leader.”

Johnson succeeds Paul J. Ballard, who assumed the role for an interim period in February.

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Paul Ballard

Paul Ballard (credit: RTD)

“We thank Mr. Ballard for keeping the agency moving during a year that posed many unexpected challenges,” Rivera-Malpiede said. “His experience has been invaluable during this time and we appreciate all that he has done.”

Audra Streetman