End of the Line

End of the Line

Last train has left the station for Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman as chair of the Metro board.

Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) will no longer be the ticket-taker on the Metro Board.

Kauffman's one-year term as chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority Board ended last week, a year he describes as being full of "scrutiny and overdue change."

For the past 12 months, Kauffman had been splitting his time between his duties as the Lee District supervisor and chairing the Metro Board, adding the second-largest light-rail system in the nation to his train of responsibilities.

"The biggest accomplishment of the past year is bringing some sunshine and customer focus in," Kauffman said, following a party in his office to celebrate the end of his tenure as chairman. "That was certainly painful at times, but the authority will be better for it. Once you know where you're not meeting the bar, that's the first step toward improvement."

MOST OF Kauffman's work over the past year has been geared toward opening the board to receiving input from the thousands of people who ride Metro daily, from creating e-mail accounts for individual board members for direct input to organizing the first public meeting about Metro's budget.

"Probably the biggest plus was rolling out the first ever riders advisory council, which came on board the night before I gave up the chairmanship," Kauffman said. "That's old hat for most government offices and companies, but we'd never had one," he said.

Each board meeting now starts with public input, another new addition, Kauffman said.

"It has taken 30 years to get to the common sense issues of openness," Kauffman said. "I hope to see even more changes come about in rapid succession."

Kauffman's position as chair was a good fit for the district he covers, as many of the people in Springfield use Metro daily for work or other purposes, he said.

"I don't think I've disappeared from my duties in the Lee District, but I will be getting back two or three days each week," he said. "It allows me to have more time to focus on things closer to home."

The party Tuesday afternoon was a time for Kauffman and his office staff to celebrate the lifting of a "mostly joyous burden, but a burden that was shared," he said.

"More demands were put on those people who work with me and strive to make me look good," he laughed. "This was an opportunity for us to exhale and smile."

Kauffman's staff doesn't expect to see a change in their workload or an increase in his in-office presence, now that the chairmanship has ended.

"I'll still continue to work in the same capacity, handling Metro issues for our constituents," said Joan Clark, Kauffman's staff aid for transportation and education. "There may be less of an influx from the outer communities, but it's the same kind of work."

She praised Kauffman for the dedication he gives his work, both inside the Lee District and with Metro.

"He has taken on a lot and has been able to accomplish a lot," Clark said. "I think he's happy to get back to working in our community, but he never really left. He's very committed to his district."

The biggest change for Kauffman may simply be increased time at home, now that his weekends and evenings can start sooner, said aid Linda Waller.

"I don't see our office changing in a big way," she said. "There will just be fewer balls to juggle in the air. If people come in with questions about Metro, Joan will still take the calls. Nothing changes."

Making appointments on Kauffman's calendar may become a little easier, now that he won't be dedicating every Thursday to chairing Metro meetings, said Debbie Wilson, Kauffman's scheduler.

"It's not like this will free up any time for him, he still did everything around here as chairman," she said. "His days just started earlier and went later.

The position of chair of the Metro Board is decided on a one-year, rotating basis, Kauffman said. The soonest he'll be eligible to occupy the post again is in six years.

"If I'm still here, I'd like to do it again," he said.