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Charlotte Area

LA transit official to head CATS

Charlotte has hired a new director of the Charlotte Area Transit System with extensive budgeting experience. Carolyn Flowers will be leaving her job as Chief Operations Officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to head CATS. Flowers says she's tackled some tough issues in L.A. County, among them labor negotiations with the transit workers union and some tight budgets. "I'm sitting on the coals in Los Angeles so I think I know how to deal with heat," says Flowers. City Manager Curt Walton says Flowers' experience with both budgets and bus operations were big factors in hiring her for the job. Earlier this year, CATS made $4 million in cuts to the bus and train systems. The department has also had to consider downsizing its transit vision after last year's half-cent sales tax revenue came in $14 million lower than expected. Flowers says CATS is in the same predicament as many other transit systems. "We want to provide a network and a system for the future that we can afford and so it's going to be key to look at those elements right now," says Flowers. "We may be slowing down the plan, we may be deferring or we may be able to accelerate parts of the plan depending on what the economy looks like. So that's going to be the first thing I need to do." Flowers says realizing whatever that plan becomes will take some negotiating and convincing. "I believe in partnerships, consensus-building, teams and good-working relationships. We will involve all stakeholders and partnership with the private sector to tell our story." Flowers came to Charlotte for a transit meeting two years ago and said she thought it was a nice place. As soon as she heard about the opening at CATS, Flowers says she told recruiters she was interested in the job. Former CATS CEO Keith Parker left the department in June to take a job as head of San Antonio's transit system. The City of Charlotte says seventy people applied for the job. Flowers will receive a salary of $197,000, roughly the same as her predecessor. She starts in January.