By Jacqueline Quynh

DENVER (CBS4) – The new boss at RTD officially started Monday morning. Debra Johnson has now become the organization’s first female general manager and CEO. She also happens to be a person of color.

“The vantage point from which I come is that I have to engage. I have to lead and model the behavior, and if anything I have to be accountable, and I pride myself on being truthful, transparent, and operate with integrity,” Johnson said.

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Debra Johnson (credit: CBS)

She told CBS4 she grew up in Fresno, California, where as a young student she relied on public transportation for school, and to travel to places that would otherwise be off-limits. Reliability however has been an issue plaguing Denver. Delays have caused frustration for riders.

“First and foremost, what I need to do is have an understanding of what our schedule is and what we are intended to deliver.”

Delivering on-time service while in the middle of an economic downturn and balancing a budget will be part of her challenges.

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RTD Light Rail

(credit: CBS)

“We need to ensure that we have the optimal number of employees that match the optimal number of train sets in order to deliver said service,” she explained.

There may have to be a reduction in staffing.

“Keeping in mind that I pride myself in being a person in the people business. With there being a reduction in force, please recognize that whatever will be done will be done through a lens of dignity and respect for our employees,” Johnson added.

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Johnson concluded that as a leader she is here to listen more than to speak and that any changes would be done through engagement and partnership with the community.

Jacqueline Quynh