Debra Johnson selected as first woman to lead RTD as GM/CEO

The Regional Transportation District (RTD)'s Board of Directors tonight has selected transit industry veteran Debra Johnson as the agency’s next general manager and CEO, capping off an extensive nationwide search for RTD’s new permanent top leader and naming a woman to the role for the first time in the agency’s half-century history.  

The Board announced Johnson’s selection at a Special Board Meeting convened this evening, at which they deliberated among three finalists in a closed executive session and returned to open session to share the decision. The recruitment, supported by the executive search firm Krauthamer & Associates, drew 58 applicants, six of whom were interviewed by the Board’s Executive Search Committee.

Johnson, a transit executive with over 25 years of diversified, progressively responsible experience leading and managing business processes for public transit agencies, now serves as Deputy CEO at Long Beach Transit in Long Beach, California. She has held executive positions at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro).

“We are leading through an unprecedented time of transition for RTD, in weathering a global pandemic, technological changes and new considerations that guide the service we provide,” said Board Chair Angie Rivera-Malpiede. “At the heart of Debra’s diverse, impressive background, creativity and best practices, she is guided by people: our dedicated team of employees and the public we all serve. We are excited for the people of the Denver region to meet her, and we look forward to working with Debra as she continues to elevate and position RTD as the world-class agency we are all so proud to be a part of.” 

“Thank you to the RTD Board of Directors for selecting me as the next General Manager/CEO,” Johnson said. “I am extremely humbled and equally excited about this opportunity. I look forward to working with the dynamic men and women who have made RTD such a progressive transportation agency. Moreover, I am elated to become an integral part of the community as I work with all stakeholders to improve service quality and enhance RTD’s image.” 

The Board and Johnson will begin negotiating the terms of her employment agreement, a process expected to be complete no later than the end of October. RTD will announce the date Johnson begins her new role when it has been determined.

Johnson succeeds Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Paul J. Ballard, who assumed the role for an interim period in February. RTD’s former permanent General Manager and CEO, Dave Genova, retired in January. 

To learn more about Johnson and watch a video presentation outlining her vision for RTD, click here.


Debra Johnson