Working Together: City Leaders Recall Innovative Partnership With Pollack, MassDOT

If former MassDOT Director Stephanie Pollack needed a guinea pig for exciting transportation experiments, Everett was willing to be the test subject, and Mayor Carlo DeMaria and Pollack forged a partnership over the last six years that brought about such exciting pilot programs that have now spread across the region.

Former MassDOT Director Stephanie Pollack with Mayor Carlo DeMaria last October in Everett Square at the kick-off of Re-Imagining Broadway.

Pollack, who focused in on Everett early six years ago due to the City’s willingness to lead and pay for initiatives, announced last week that she was leaving MassDOT to become Deputy Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration under new President Joe Biden. Leaving a state Republican Administration for a federal Democratic Administration, Pollack left her job in Massachusetts on Tuesday, but was not forgotten in Everett.

“It has been a privilege to lead MassDOT’s exceptional team these last six years and to work with the MBTA’s senior leadership and the Fiscal and Management Control Board,” said Pollack. “The Governor and Lt. Governor have my deepest gratitude for entrusting me with the stewardship of MassDOT and their leadership as transportation champions. Massachusetts has become a leader in delivering a transportation system that puts people first and provides them with safer and better choices for walking, biking, using transit, or driving and I am confident that Jamey will be able to continue that good work.”

Mayor Carlo DeMaria was perhaps one of the first local officials to grab the attention of Pollack when she assumed a leadership role at MassDOT. He proposed working together on a remake of Everett’s transit offerings, conducting a study that would change bus service through innovation, efficiency and trying fun things.

Pollack was more than willing, particularly because the revenue-starved MBTA didn’t have the money to do such things, and Mayor DeMaria proposed that Everett pay for the study and some of the innovations themselves.

It was a winning partnership that developed into the Everett Transit Action Plan, which led to the region’s first real dedicated bus lane on Broadway five years ago and other Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) innovations. Later, it also spawned the Lower Mystic Regional Transportation Working Group – which Pollack chaired and helped to solve long-term mobility issues created in the area of Encore Boston Harbor.

City Transportation Director Jay Monty, who worked with the mayor to go forward on so many of the initiatives, said there was an investment in building relationships that was a new approach Pollack brought. That approach first showed up in Everett and then took off in other areas of Greater Boston later.

“Our plan recommended the first bus lane, but there was no one at the T who knew how to approach this or implement it,” he said. “I think it was because of our successes and also her administrative skills to see the bus lanes expand to many other communities now. Doing the bus lane last year on Sweetser Circle was a breeze compared to six years ago when we started. So much has gone on under the radar to make MassDOT stronger and the work they do with communities stronger. That investment she made will pay off for a long time.”

Monty said the approach that began in Everett has changed the way everyone does business with MassDOT, including Boston.

“It really has put more accountability on cities and towns,” he said. “Five years ago it was put you hand out and scream really loud and hopefully the T will hear and help. With Stephanie Pollack, we had skin in the game and they were ready to work alongside us. We’re sad to see her leave and whoever fills her shoes will hopefully continue this relationship with Everett.”

Pollack was most recently in Everett last October to kick off the Re-Imagining Broadway BRT, multi-faceted, approach to changing transportation in the City’s corridors.

Late last week, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito announced the departure of Pollack, and appointed Jamey L. Tesler as Acting Secretary of Transportation. Secretary Pollack was announced Thursday as Deputy Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration for the Biden-Harris Administration. Secretary Pollack will also be acting Administrator until the confirmation by the United States Senate of a permanent Highway Administrator.

“Stephanie has led MassDOT through many difficult challenges over the past six years; from the historic blizzards that exposed the problems of the MBTA, through saving the GLX project, instituting a data-driven Capital Improvement Plan, and guiding the RMV through a crisis last summer,” said Governor Baker. “She has provided MassDOT with stability and leadership through the last six years, serving longer than her three predecessors combined. She has allowed the agency to focus on long term efforts developing the FMCB and upgrading the MBTA’s infrastructure, service and customer relations and much more. We are so grateful for Stephanie’s service to the Commonwealth and congratulate her on her new appointment. I am confident that Jamey will step into this important role ready to lead on day one.”

Jamey Tesler, currently Registrar of Motor Vehicles, has years of experience across the Department of Transportation, previously serving as Chief Operating Officer, Chief of Staff and Assistant Secretary for Procurement for MassDOT. Jamey also worked for the MBTA, Governor Jane Swift’s legal office and the Office of the State Treasurer.

“I am honored by the trust the Governor and Lt. Governor are placing in me,” said incoming Secretary Jamey Tesler. “Working with Secretary Pollack for most of the last five years has been a master class in transportation policy, and I am happy to be able to use that knowledge to continuing advancing the programs and policies we have been working on together for so long.” 

Colleen Ogilvie, currently deputy Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, will serve as Acting Registrar.

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