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Houston's Transit Chief Has a Ticket Back to Los Angeles

February 26, 1988|RICH CONNELL | Times Staff Writer

Houston transit chief Alan Kiepper, the apparent front-runner to succeed former RTD General Manager John Dyer, will return to Los Angeles this weekend to begin a round of private meetings with top political figures.

County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who has been lobbying intensely for Kiepper, said Thursday that there are enough votes to hire the 59-year-old transit executive, who helped develop Atlanta's mass transit system and more recently has been credited with turning around the once-troubled Houston bus system.

Although no employment agreement has been reached, sources said Kiepper, who favorably impressed several RTD board members during an interview Feb. 15, is expected to meet individually early next week with Mayor Tom Bradley and members of the county Board of Supervisors--a sign that the recruitment courtship is getting serious. Bradley and the supervisors appoint a majority of the members of the Southern California Rapid Transit District board.

During the weekend, Kiepper also will have one-on-one sessions with RTD board members, as well as key labor and business leaders, sources said. He also will scout local home costs, which are considerably higher than in Houston's depressed real estate market.

"The intent is to give me an opportunity to gather more information and raise questions," Kiepper said Thursday in an telephone interview from Houston. "I'm really trying to acquaint myself with what the issues and opportunities are."

Salary, housing and relocation assistance, pension credits and other key contract items have not been discussed, Kiepper and other sources said. Some sources said it is understood that Kiepper, who also is in negotiations to renew his contract in Houston, could decline an offer.

Kiepper makes $117,000 a year now, not including a car and other perks. Dyer, one of the highest paid public officials in Southern California, made $119,000 and the RTD carries the mortgage on his Glendale home.

Hahn said Thursday that he has offered the RTD additional transit funds from his 2nd District account to pay a higher salary to attract Kiepper. He also said he offered to help Kiepper, who now teaches part time at Rice University, to arrange a similar job at a major university here.

Several years ago, Kiepper gave Hahn the idea, which he translated into a successful 1980 ballot measure here, of getting voters to approve a sales tax increase for transit. The key was guaranteeing reduced bus fares for a few years. "I was very impressed with him," Hahn said.

Although the focus is on Kiepper, apparently because he is viewed as the more experienced candidate, the other top contender for the job, Boston transit chief James O'Leary, 38, also remains in the running, sources said.

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