Joni Earl, longtime CEO of Sound Transit, will be off the job for “a number of months” while she recovers from a brain injury, the agency announced today.
The problem, described by Sound Transit as a “serious injury,” was diagnosed April 21, and Earl underwent surgery for blood-vessel leakage. She is recovering well, and has chatted with colleagues, officials said.
Sound Transit’s governing board passed a resolution today to affirm that Mike Harbour, the deputy CEO, will lead the agency during Earl’s medical leave.
“We have every expectation she’ll be back,” said spokesman Bruce Gray, who said doctors haven’t pinpointed the cause of her ailment.
Earl, 60, is a former Snohomish County deputy executive. She joined Sound Transit in 2000 at the depth of its fiscal crisis, and in early 2001 was appointed acting executive director, while gaining a reputation for her diplomatic skills. The board named her CEO in 2003, after she led a reworking of transit plans and budgets, enabling voter-approved rail projects to begin construction.
Light rail opened in 2009 and carries 31,000 passengers per weekday, with extensions to the University of Washington and Angle Lake in SeaTac scheduled to open in 2016.