In defense of Paul Wageman - by NTTA public information officer Sherita Coffelt

August 11, 2010

I want to weigh in on this morning's post about Chairman Wageman as a staffer who has worked closely with him over the past three and a half years. There's no denying the fact that our Chairman is one of the most polarizing figures in Texas transportation right now.  You were on the money with your subhead entitled, "Loved or hated."  However, there were other statements that were not accurate, such as when you said he was "erratic."
That's simply not the truth.  His reactions to issues presented to the Board are predictable and measured.  I'd be interested to know of specific times when he'd exhibited "erratic" behavior or changed his position.  And since you said he was "notoriously erratic," I'm assuming you have multiple examples.  I'd also like to know examples of times that Chairman Wageman "ratted" when "chips were down."  I'd even be curious as to why you called him a "swing vote" in the procurement issue?  When did he indicate he'd ever vote another way?  Also, where did you get that he treats staff like "errand boys?"

Our current executive director, Allen Clemson, vehemently disagreed with that assertion.  Finally, staff instituted procurements because the contracts were coming to an end, not because of criticism of the relationships.
Whoever your sources are seem to be biased.  I'd like to help you balance your article for your readers. 
While you did mention his accomplishments, I'd also like to add some other descriptors to the dialogue.  In my interaction with Chairman Wageman, I've found him to be fair.  If I messed up, he didn't spare me.  He expected me to acknowledge and correct my mistake and then to make sure that it didn't happen again.  He was consistent with everyone.  He is smart, dedicated and very committed to any cause he undertakes - from leading the NTTA to coaching his twin daughters' softball team.
A reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently credited him with "saving the NTTA from irrelevancy."  Without a supportive staff, Wageman would not have been able to accomplish so much and if he were such an ominous figure, staff would not have been willing to work so hard to accomplish these things. 

NTTA staff has seen a lot of change over the past four years. 

We've had very public bouts with formidable opponents that threatened the NTTA's relevance.  However, we've always known we had a solid leader that was a force to be reckoned with.  I've talked to many staffers who felt that the Chairman's high expectations forced them to become stronger professionals.
As his time on the board winds down and the discussion about Paul Wageman's legacy begins, I want to make sure that those outside the agency, who cannot possibly know the complete story, get an accurate portrayal of the forceful man that accomplished so much in so little time.
And, no, the Chairman did not direct or participate in this response!

RESPONSE: Back in November last year Chairman Wageman said the NTTA had become "lazy" in not competing consultant services and in simply renewing old contracts repeatedly. NTTA routinely paid established contractors three times what competitive or in-house staff could do much of the the work for. HNTB engineers cost NTTA nearly half a million dollars each for a year's work compared to $150k for a staff engineer.  Major savings should be possible with a mix of extra in-house staff and newly competed service contracts, Wageman was saying.

For Wageman to then vote as he did at the last meeting as chairman to void completely the procurement of new service contractors seems to us to be erratic and to be ratting on those he'd encouraged to bid and ratting on those who conducted the procurements.

His critics say this is typical but Ms Coffelt fairly calls us on generalizing from this one example, and we are pleased to publish an alternate view - editor.

TOLLROADSnews 2010-08-11

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