The TriMet Board of Directors has named Sam Desue, Jr., General Manager; he has served in an interim capacity since March, following Doug Kelsey’s retirement.
Desue becomes the first leader of color in TriMet’s 51-year history, and brings more than 27 years of transportation experience to the role.
He joined the Portland, Ore.-based agency in 2019 as Chief Operating Officer, managing and overseeing six of the nine TriMet divisions, including Transportation, Maintenance, Information Technology, Safety & Security, Operational Training, Business Planning & Assets, and Operations Planning & Development.
As interim GM, Desue has “already made huge strides to build back trust and improve the agency relationship with union leaders,” TriMet reported. In addition, he “has advanced climate initiatives and championed safety, maintenance, and critical equity and social justice policies,” and has begun “developing new strategies to manage TriMet’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic impacts.”
Desue started his career as a bus operator for Gray Line of Alaska. More recently, he rose through the ranks at Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), starting as the Director of Transportation in 2013, and serving as Chief Operating Officer, interim General Manager and finally Deputy CEO.
“When Sam joined TriMet in 2019, he quickly established himself as a proven, measured and thoughtful leader who was committed to safety, service and the community,” TriMet Board President Bruce Warner said. “His years of transit expertise, customer-driven vision, commitment to building consensus and his humanity are sure to benefit transit riders and the agency for years to come.”
“I am honored to be selected by the Board as the next General Manager of this impressive agency,” Desue said. “While we are collectively facing significant challenges as we recover from the impacts of the pandemic, I have full confidence in the TriMet team, our regional partners and in the strength of the community we serve. With a critical lens on equity and social justice, I will diligently work to advance new customer, safety, maintenance and climate initiatives.”