Honoring Joni Earlby Representative Adam Smith
Posted on 2015-12-18
in the house of representatives
Friday, December 18, 2015
Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I rise to honor Joni Earl,
longtime Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Seattle area's regional
transit system, Sound Transit, on her retirement. Joni has been an
extraordinary and transformative civic leader; forever changing the
public transportation system in the Puget Sound region.
Joni's public service has been a lifelong endeavor and began when she was just a teenager, when she served as Assistant Treasurer at the City of Bremerton's City Treasurer office. Upon graduation from Washington State University, Joni would continue her career in 1987 as the City Manager of Mill Creek. Later, she brought her leadership abilities to Snohomish County as the Deputy County Executive until 2000, when she was recruited to join Sound Transit as its Chief Operating Officer (COO).
As COO, Joni was tasked with saving a $1.9 billion light rail project that was years behind schedule and a billion dollars over budget. Just months after arriving, Joni was unexpectedly appointed to the role of CEO, where she discovered the true extent of Sound Transit's difficulties with several projects behind schedule, over budget, and in danger of losing federal and public support.
With the agency's future very much in doubt, Joni spearheaded Sound Transit's remarkable turnaround in the early 2000s. She immersed herself in the subject material, gaining a realistic perspective from agency staff and realigning expectations for the then-troubled light rail line. Her skillful navigation of the relationship with the Sound Transit board, which includes local elected officials from throughout the region, won her the trust of Democrats and Republicans alike. To those who had worked with Joni in the past, the transformation of Sound Transit came as no surprise: her career is filled with stories of successful turnarounds.
Thanks to Joni's careful stewardship, the Puget Sound region's transit system is today on stable footing with Sound Transit rolling out new light rail and bus service. The initial portion of an extensive light rail system--the first of its kind in the region--was up and running by 2009; in 2016, a new light rail extension to the University of Washington is set to open months ahead of schedule and $150 million under budget. Moving forward, Sound Transit is expected to expand its light rail throughout the region, providing new transportation opportunities for citizens and transforming the economic vitality of the region in the process.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great honor that I recognize Joni Earl on her retirement from Sound Transit and for her lifetime of service to the Puget Sound region. It is without a doubt that her leadership and commitment to a better future of public transit will continue to impact the region for generations to come.