GoTriangle leader Jeff Mann to leave regional transit agency this summer

Jeff Mann is the general manager of GoTriangle. He joined GoTriangle from the N.C. Department of Transportation in July 2015.
Jeff Mann is the general manager of GoTriangle. He joined GoTriangle from the N.C. Department of Transportation in July 2015.

GoTriangle CEO and President Jeff Mann, who led the now-defunct Durham-Orange light-rail project since 2015, will leave the regional transit agency on July 31, the agency announced Wednesday.

Mann previously served as deputy secretary at the N.C. Department of Transportation. He is leaving GoTriangle to spend more time with his family and pursue other opportunities, GoTriangle Board of Trustees Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow said in a news release.

“Through the good times and the tough ones, Jeff and his team have worked closely and diligently with our board,” she said. “We sincerely appreciate all of his hard work, his leadership and his dedication to a shared regional vision for transit.”

General Counsel Shelley Blake will begin as interim president and CEO on Aug. 1, while GoTriangle looks for a permanent replacement. Mann has agreed to help Blake with support through the end of August, Reckhow said.

Blake also worked previously as an NCDOT deputy secretary and general counsel. The graduate of the N.C. Central University School of Law joined GoTriangle in 2016. She also has worked as a attorney in Raleigh, Cary and Durham and taught legal writing and analysis at NCCU.

“We are very fortunate to have a strong executive in Shelley ready to step in and lead during this time of transition,” Reckhow said. “Her knowledge, experience, leadership and strong working relationships make Shelley an ideal fit.”

Shelley Blake.jpg
Shelley Blake GoTriangle Contributed

Mann has over 20 years of transportation planning and program management experience, including with Amtrak, the N.C. Railroad Company and Parsons Brinckerhoff.

His move comes at a pivotal time for regional transit in Durham and Orange counties, where elected officials, staff and members of the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro regional transit planning organization are regrouping after the loss of light rail. This year’s draft transit plans focus mostly on local bus services, although Durham is moving ahead with planning for the Wake-Durham commuter rail project.

Reckhow noted Mann’s tenure at GoTriangle has seen challenges and “some significant triumphs,” including Wake County’s approval of a half-cent sales tax for transit projects in 2016, federal grants for new electric buses and a $20 million federal grant for the Raleigh Union Station Bus project in downtown Raleigh.

The biggest challenge, by far, was guiding the 18-mile Durham-Orange light-rail project, which was nearing the end of nearly a decade of planning and a $1.23 billion federal grant process when it failed in March. The project ran into significant hurdles involving its finances, project details and partnerships, including Duke University’s decision to pull out of the proposed project.

State deadlines that required the project to have all of its local and state funding in place by April 30 and its federal funding in place later this year added to the complications.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in bus service, the commuter-rail project has advanced into the next study phase and GoTriangle has strengthened its community involvement, including hosting two major Hurricane Relief Bus efforts,” Reckhow said. “While our light-rail project ultimately could not move forward, Jeff led the GoTriangle team in working tirelessly to seek every opportunity to make it successful.”

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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.