Phoenix Transportation Department rearranges leadership

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Street Transportation Department Director Ray Dovalina moved from his position to take a new post in the Public Works Department overseeing the city’s flood management program. (Nicole Neri/DD)

The Street Transportation Department for the city of Phoenix has shuffled leadership as part of a larger city effort to improve key areas, according to city officials.

Street Transportation Department Director Ray Dovalina moved from his position to take a new post in the Public Works Department overseeing the city’s flood management program. His new role will involve coordinating city and county flood control infrastructure needs.

Maria Hyatt, the former public transit director, took Dovalina’s place as director of the Street Transportation Department. Ken Kessler, a deputy public transit director, will be temporarily serving as transit director in her absence.

These changes were made in “an effort to strengthen and improve service in key areas, and broaden the knowledge and experience of staff,” according to city of Phoenix Communications Director Julie Watters.

Watters said the shuffle was sparked by a move from the city’s light rail coordinator, Albert Santana, who took over a role running Phoenix’s 2020 Census. He left an open position filled by Jesus Sapien, another deputy public transit director.

“This is a critical project that is on the horizon for the city and requires a lot of community engagement,” Watters wrote of the 2020 Census Program. “Frankly, cities and towns across the country are already putting teams together.”

Other leadership roles were not affected by the recent changes. Mario Paniagua will continue serving as the deputy city manager over both the Transit and Street Transportation Departments.

The Urban Phoenix Project, an urban advocacy group focused on downtown Phoenix, first posted about the changes on Feb. 2, and praised the change in leadership from Dovalina to Hyatt.

“We have high hopes that this overdue change in leadership will also result in a change in direction for street design in Phoenix,” the organization wrote on its Facebook page.

Dovalina has been involved in controversy before. In February 2016, the Phoenix Business Journal reported he was suspended for two days, along with two other high-ranking Phoenix officials, for shoddy work involving the planning of a new business improvement district in the Roosevelt Row area.

The city of Phoenix will be conducting a national recruitment for a new street transportation director while the current assignments are in place.

Contact the reporter at Rebecca.Spiess@asu.edu.

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