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Ted Rieck took the steering wheel at Jaunt in trying times. He leaves it better than he found it.

When Ted Rieck was named CEO of Jaunt at the end of 2021, the regional public transit system was facing a reckoning.

The former CEO, onetime Albemarle County Supervisor Brad Sheffield, had been forced out by the board after an audit revealed he had spent thousands of dollars of Jaunt’s money on luxury products and travel. A review commissioned by the commonwealth then found discrepancies between the submitted performance data Jaunt had submitted and information pulled directly from its scheduling system; Sheffield had been overreporting ridership and underreporting contract costs during his tenure. As a result, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation said Jaunt owed the commonwealth roughly $1 million.

Rieck took the steering wheel at a critical moment.

Almost exactly two years later, he is leaving the transit system in a better condition than he found it.

Rieck announced his retirement last week.

He is leaving Jaunt debt-free and in “good financial standing,” according to Jaunt CFO Robin Munson.

“We are grateful to Ted for his contributions to Jaunt, and wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” the president of Jaunt’s board of directors, Brad Burdette, said in a statement announcing Rieck’s retirement.

Although the original statement announcing Rieck’s departure, issued the Friday before the Christmas weekend, provided no explanation, Jaunt leaders assured The Daily Progress that Rieck discussed his retirement with the board’s executive committee before announcing his resignation and he will be leaving in their good graces.

The statement announcing Rieck’s resignation was also missing any remarks from Rieck himself, but he made a personal statement on his LinkedIn account.

“I am proud of the accomplishments including developing and executing a transparent budgeting and funding process that has helped rebuild Jaunt’s credibility with its funding partners,” he wrote. “We have identified a strategy to reduce Jaunt’s operating expenses by 15%. We also embarked on the introduction of battery electric vehicles, initiated a rural transit needs assessment, and explored microtransit as an alternative service delivery mechanism. Further, we developed community partnerships to advance public transit in central Virginia. I thank the Board of Directors for the opportunity to lead Jaunt during these last two years.”

The search for his permanent replacement has already commenced, but in the meantime Jaunt’s board has named Mike Murphy interim CEO. Murphy, who is principal of executive coaching and organizational development firm IDEA Minds, previously served as the Albemarle County representative on Jaunt’s board. He resigned from his position on the board prior to his nomination for the interim appointment.

Murphy told The Daily Progress that he was grateful to Rieck for all the work he had done to shore up the transit system’s finances and restore public confidence in the organization.

“When Ted joined the organization, that was a period of time where people rightly had some questions about whether they could feel confident about Jaunt,” Murphy said. “Over the last couple of years, I would say that Ted and the board have worked together to create that confidence with local, state and federal officials, which is extraordinarily important. Now is a time for Jaunt to be focused on the future.”

Before joining Jaunt’s board, Murphy was a longtime collaborator with the transit system while he worked for the city of Charlottesville. Murphy started working for the city in 1995 as a youth counselor and moved his way up the ranks, becoming deputy city manager in July 2019. He left the city in October 2020 for IDEA Minds.

While stability was Rieck’s chief objective when he came on board two years ago, he also had growth in mind.

The nearly 50-year-old regional transit system is jointly owned by the localities it serves — Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson, Greene and Buckingham counties and the city of Charlottesville — and it relies on those localities for the funding and resources to move its 300,000-plus regular passengers throughout Central Virginia. When a locality cannot provide enough assistance, Jaunt has to make cuts, as it did in Greene earlier this year.

Rieck dreamed of transforming Jaunt into a regional transit authority.

And while that longer-term goal was never fulfilled, it remains a priority for the board, according to Murphy, who also mentioned studies being done to determine if Jaunt has the ability to transition to alternative-fuel vehicles.

“What we’re really looking at right now is internal: What does Jaunt need to work on?” said Murphy. “And, externally: How are we providing great service? Are there any gaps in rural routes? Could we do business in a different way that would be more effective?”

Murphy, and whoever is chosen to succeed him on a more permanent basis, will face those questions, and likely more, as Jaunt enters a new year and a new chapter.


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