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Transit Veteran Named To Lead TARC Out Of 'One Of The Worst Periods' In Its History

Photo by J. Tyler Franklin

Carrie Butler will become the new executive director of TARC. Mayor Greg Fischer made the announcement during a press conference Thursday morning.

Butler, a Louisville native, previously served as director of planning at TARC for eight years and has spent the past six years as general manager of Lexington’s public transit system. She also worked as a transportation planner for a civil engineering firm that worked with public transportation systems throughout the country.

Growing up in Louisville, she recognized the importance of TARC, Butler said.

“I know the value that it can bring to individuals,” she said. “I was honored to be able to spend an early part of my career there in the planning role. It is truly an honor for me to be serving in this role at TARC in my hometown.”

Butler’s background and experience made her the optimal choice to fill the position, Fischer said. He said good leadership will be critical for TARC as it reshapes its operations in the aftermath of financial and sexual misconduct allegations against its former executive director, Ferdinand Risco, Jr., who was fired in February.

“Talking to Carrie, her passion for public transportation is what motivates her and was inspiring to hear,” Fischer said. “She’s innovative, she’s inclusive, and she has the vision we need as we develop long-term projects…”

Risco resigned after at least six women who worked at TARC accused him of engaging in a pattern of sexual misconduct that included inappropriate touching, lewd photos and messages and offers of promotions in exchange for sexual intercourse.

Other allegations against the former director were documented in an internal report released this week that described Risco's tenure as "one of the worst periods" in TARC history. It found that Risco awarded a contract worth at least $228,000 to a woman he was having a sexual relationship with and that he spent more than $63,000 on travel expenses in one year. He had been with the agency since 2017 and was promoted to executive director by Fischer in April 2019.

Fischer later appointed Laura Douglas and Margaret Handmaker as interim executive directors of TARC. Butler was then selected from 40 applicants in the months-long nationwide search for a permanent director.

Both Handmaker and Douglas endorsed Butler’s hiring at Thursday’s press conference. Douglas said TARC is at a “very significant point” in its history, and believes Butler has what it takes to lead effectively.

“More than Carrie’s technical skills, she also brings a certain measure of people skills and mother wit, which is going to be necessary at this point in TARC’s history to help the staff move forward with confidence,” Douglas said.

Following the allegations against Risco, TARC implemented a number of internal changes. A new code of conduct replaced the 20-year-old employee handbook and an anonymous tip line was created to report misconduct. Officials also bolstered the office that responds to claims of sexual harassment and created new channels of communication between board members and employees.

Butler said she will continue to work toward changing the culture at TARC.

“I take this role seriously, and I understand the gravity of what happened to some individuals,” she said. “There will be some healing that needs to happen. Those things that have been put in place are important, and I think that continued commitment to having this open communication, having this training and creating that culture that is inclusive and focuses on diversity and makes people feel welcomed, valued and respected is important.”

Butler said the transformation will be a continual process that is revisited frequently in order to produce change.

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