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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Sound Transit names chief administrative officer


Joann Francis has been interested in transportation — especially passenger rail — her whole life. And Sept. 5 she was named Sound Transit’s chief administrative officer to oversee the agency’s real estate, contracts, diversity, safety and security, and human resources divisions, effective Oct. 1. She believes she’s right at home.

Francis was born in Mississippi, but moved — by train — to Yakima, Wash., when she was six months old while her father worked on Alaskan freeway construction projects and Washington’s Interstate 90.

Although she currently is an attorney with Seattle-based Foster Pepper & Shefelman PLLC, Francis has been active in transportation in her own right, too. She worked for Seattle’s municipal government while it was building the bus tunnel under 3rd Avenue in the mid-1980s. And, while she and her husband lived in U.S. Virgin Islands for a year, he served as that transit system’s manager of transportation planning while she worked as council to the agency.

She even worked for Sound Transit as an attorney and already is very familiar with the system. And its challenges. But that’s part of the appeal.

"Some mistakes have been made, but the agency has recognized the areas we need to improve," Francis says, adding that she’s always been a supporter of light rail, and the opportunity to help get the system up and running is very appealing.

Her job, as she sees it, is to "make sure we have the proper policies, procedures and systems in place to provide support" as the system is built. And, be an agency that is "open, fair and sensitive to the needs of the community," she says.

"If we don’t do our jobs well, the rest of the agency can’t do their jobs well."

Kathi Kube