British Columbia

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond stepping down after 5 years

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond is stepping down after nearly five years in his role, the transit authority announced Tuesday.

Kevin Desmond going home to the United States

Translink CEO Kevin Desmond enters the negotiation room for transit talks in Vancouver on Nov. 26, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond is stepping down after nearly five years in his role, the transit authority announced Tuesday.

Desmond is leaving the organization in February to seek "new career challenges" back home in the United States, according to a statement.

"Without a doubt, we are sorry to see him step away from the CEO role, but Kevin is leaving behind an organization that is stronger and more responsive to our customers and our communities and better prepared than ever for the future," the statement read.

Desmond signed on as authority CEO in 2016, previously having worked at King County Metro Transit and Pierce Transit in Washington state for more than a decade. Desmond, who is an American citizen, also worked as the operations manager for New York City transit before moving west.

"It's been a joy and pleasure to be leading TransLink through this period, but I also have my family to be thinking about as I think, you know, my family lives across the border in the Seattle region, as does my wife," Desmond said. 

"It's time to go home and reconnect with my family and think about what I want to do in the next phase of my life."

Desmond's time with TransLink saw more than $9 billion worth of approved transit expansion projects, as well as the implementation of "tap-to-pay" and touchless fare gates, quicker SeaBus service and double-decker buses.

His role became more challenging over the past year. TransLink narrowly avoided an all-out suspension of the region's bus system after transit workers threatened to walk over working conditions last November. This year, the authority expected to lose almost a half-billion dollars, in revenue as ridership plummeted due to the pandemic.

Desmond said he was happy that the transit authority had secured provincial and federal funding to work through the pandemic. 

"I'll be departing TransLink knowing that we're stable, knowing that we have a good approach going forward to start rebuilding that ridership," he said. 

On a more personal level, politicians, workers' advocates and the public have criticized the CEO's salary for years and questioned his resistance to taking heavy pay cuts. Desmond was hired at an annual salary of $365,000 in 2016, but a 2019 review of TransLink's executive compensation boosted the high end of his salary range to $517,444.

TransLink said Tuesday a new CEO has not yet been selected. The incoming executive will be tasked with rebuilding the authority's finances.

With files from Justin Mcelroy

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