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COTA Hires Joanna Pinkerton As New CEO

Esther Honig

The Central Ohio Transit Authority has a new leader: Joanna Pinkerton.

COTA's board approved Pinkerton as the transit authority's CEO on Tuesday. Despite her lack of experience in public transport, Pinkerton says she's confident she can handle the job.

"I’ve been very fortunate not only to be in the operations side of large organizations, both in the public side and in research," Pinkerton said. "More importantly, I've been connected in the transportation world, where we now see the manufacturers of products getting into partnerships and research with the infrastructure side."

Pinkerton replaces Curtis Stitt, who retired as CEO last September after serving in the role for 5 years and at COTA for 19.

Trained as a civil engineer, Pinkerton has worked in commercial construction and with county engineers. Most recently, she worked as the chief operating officer for Honda's Transport Research Center.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that if you keep your mind open to the opportunities that exist, it will serve you well," Pinkerton said.

She says her work in research particularly will serve her well, as more and more municipalities look to technology to streamline their systems. She’s coy on whether that technology will mean COTA branches out into different forms of transport under her tenure, like a light rail or driverless bus system, but she says the advancement will mean changes for COTA regardless.

“A lot of the vehicle systems that are being adapted today could make our buses perform better," she said. "So it’s not just about a single mode, it's about the inclusion of technology advances."

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.