Fresno’s Transportation Department once again is proving to be a career-maker (or breaker, as the case may be).
City Hall announced on Wednesday that Transportation Director Jim Schaad will become an assistant city manager as of next Monday.
Greg Barfield, Transportation’s No. 2 leader, will move into the interim director’s job.
Schaad already reported directly to City Manager Wilma Quan-Schecter. He did so from the cozy confines of the City Yard on G Street, a good mile-and-a-half from City Hall. Come next week, he’ll report to Quan-Schecter from a spot just down the hall at the space ship on P Street.
Said Quan-Schecter in a written statement:
“I’m so pleased to be able to promote from within and bring two people with considerable experience and ability to higher leadership roles. Jim has shown superior skill in managing complex projects. He’ll make an excellent addition to the City Manager’s Office. Greg has long been one of the smartest and most capable people serving at City Hall.
“They’re both rock stars.”
OK, I’ll bite – what makes them star material?
Training and production, to judge by the city’s news release.
Schaad started his City of Fresno career 16 years ago in the Fleet Management Division. He served as the Transportation Department’s assistant director for six years, moving into the director’s office last September. He was at the helm when the Bus Rapid Transit system went live in early 2018.
Barfield has been overseeing operations, planning and support services at Transportation since late 2016, shortly before the Mayor’s office transitioned from Ashley Swearengin to Lee Brand. Prior to that, Barfield served as chief of staff for Council Members Oliver Baines and Cynthia Sterling.
But when we talk about administrators as rising rock stars, perhaps there’s something else at play here. Maybe that is the nature of Fresno’s public transportation system. It strikes me that heading this particular department means you’re in a position to be either a G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) or a goat (the opposite of a hero).
Bruce Rudd is a good example of the former. I won’t name names as to the latter; anyone who has followed City Hall over the last decade or so knows who I’m talking about. It’s sufficient to say that several of Fresno’s transportation directors have left town with damaged reputations.
Running the politically-charged Fresno Area Express system is not for the faint-hearted. Schaad and Barfield have not merely survived – they have thrived. Thus their promotions.
I now look forward to their report on BRT’s paid ridership.