Palm Tran Connection hires new director; more Palm Tran hires to go

Chad Hockman, whose official title will be Senior Manager of Paratransit, starts Thursday. He’ll be formally introduced at Thursday afternoon’s meeting of the Palm Tran Service Board, the agency’s advisory group.

Hockman will oversee a staff of 75 and a $30 million budget, Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes said Wednesday in a release.

The Ohio State University graduate worked for the college, then spent 13 years at a Dallas, Texas-based private paratransit provider that worked in six Midwestern and southern States.

Hockman will earn $107,000. His predecessor, Ron Jones, had earned $115,000.

Forbes had come in November from Columbus, Ohio to become Palm Tran director.

In May, he demoted Jones and accepted the resignation of Palm Tran deputy director, and former director, Chuck Cohen.

And in June, he contracted with a private firm to provide an interim director for the troubled subsidiaryand reassigned two supervisors of the Connection’s scheduling operation. In late March, a Palm Beach County Inspector General report had said the Connection was doctoring on-time statistics.

Hockman “comes with exceptional experience in the paratransit industry. I was intimately involved in this particular recruitment, which included a pretty extensive vetting process and references throughout the industry,” Forbes said.

He said Hockman was long gone from Columbus, home of Ohio State, by the time Forbes came aboard to run that city’s transit service, and he hadn’t heard of Hockman until the recruiting process.

Heather Pekar, the interim director, will stay on another few weeks to get Hockman set up, Forbes said.

“We have a few more leaders to bring on board. But this is a huge step to completing the next generation of leaders at Palm Tran,” Forbes said.

He said the agency has three more big hires to go.

First is a director of transit operations; that’s Cohen’s former position. Forbes said that person will oversee “everything that moves” for both the Connection and the “fixed routes” — the regular routes — as well as vehicle maintenance.

That person will oversee both Hockman and B. J. Barrow, current senior manager for fixed routes, Forbes said.

Next: a program manager who will report to Forbes.

And finally, a director of transit planning, who will manage the long-term effectiveness of scheduling and routes.

Forbes said he hopes to have all three new people in place by the end of October.

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