BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - And then there were three.
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority commissioners have whittled the list of prospective candidates to replace executive director Lawrence Meckler to three people, two of whom are already employed by the authority.
The short list was compiled following a day-long series of interviews with seven people.
"Going forward, this is a huge decision we are facing," said Henry Sloma, NFTA interim chairman.
The NFTA commissioners have ordered a new round of reference and background checks on the three candidates, and are expected to select a finalist in the next few weeks.
"We are building for the long term," Sloma said. "This is a decision that impacts the NFTA today as well as the authority's next generation."
Sloma declined to identify the candidates, citing confidentiality clauses the authority signed with each.
Meckler is one of 40 NFTA employees, many of them top-level officials, who took advantage of a handsome early retirement incentive package that New York offered to all state employees, as well as those employed by state authorities.
Meckler had been with the authority for 33 years, including 13 as executive director. David Gregory, the NFTA's general counsel, was one of the 40 employees who opted for the early retirement package. Gregory retired at the end of October.
Meckler has agreed to remain with the authority as a "consulting" executive director through the end of December. Meckler will be paid $7,500 per month from the Nov. 11 to Dec. 31 period. Meckler, a lawyer, will also serve as consulting general counsel during that same period.
The massive wave of retirements, including the NFTA's two top ranking officials, is posing an extra challenge for the NFTA commissioners. The NFTA lands more than 5.3 million passengers annually at Buffalo Niagara International Airport and transports nearly 27 million riders on its Metro Rail and bus system each year. The authority has more than 1,300 employees and a nearly $190 million annual budget.
More than 21 people expressed an interest in the executive director's position and that pool was cut down to 13 candidates. Following a series of one-on-one interviews, the seven-person short list was crafted.
Sloma said the NFTA will not hire a new general counsel until an executive director is in place.
Meckler earned $193,136 last year, while Gregory was paid $142,488.
WKBW/Business First of Buffalo