Last Friday, METRO made an unexpected announcement in an otherwise routine agenda for the transit authority's monthly board meeting: George Greanias, president and CEO since May 2010, would be stepping down from his post.
An official resignation letter later released didn't shed much light on Greanias' abrupt decision. In it, he enumerated all of METRO's accomplishments over the past several years: An on-track METRORail expansion bolstered by millions of dollars in federal grants, improved relationships with local and national entities, positive change to the General Mobility Program and, as he put it, an improved "culture of openness and transparency."
"There's never a perfect time to leave, but you pick a time that makes sense to you," Greanias said.
These are the same positive organizational changes that he touted in a presentation to the Greater Houston Partnership in early December, when he gave little indication that he'd be leaving at the end of the month.
Only in the last two lines of the letter did Greanias make his intentions clear:
I have decided that it is an appropriate time for me to step down and create the next chapter in my career. Accordingly, I am resigning the position of President and Chief Executive Officer, effective December 31, 2012."
Since the news, journalists and community members have postulated on the reason. Was it a result of the METRO referendum on Nov. 5, which has been widely perceived as the end of light rail expansion in Houston? Was he pushed out for political reasons?
No answers were forthcoming during the public session of Thursday's METRO board meeting, where it was business-as-usual, with no flowery public speeches or acknowledgement of Greanias' departure.
In a closed-door executive session, the board members discussed options for finding a replacement president and CEO, and offered Greanias a six-month consulting agreement as that search begins. The board members later thanked Greanias for his service.
"There's never a perfect time to leave, but you pick a time that makes sense to you," Greanias told CultureMap in a phone interview afterward. He is confident that, although not everything that he is involved with will be completed before he leaves METRO, it will get done — and get done well.
Greanias said that he has been working "more than full time on METRO for two and a half years" and plans to take some time to consider his next career move, one that will be both "interesting and challenging."
METRO executive vice president Thomas C. Lambert will serve as interim executive of the organization.