By Mary Boone
Joni Weber Earl ’82 rides Sound Transit Regional Express from her south Everett home to her Seattle job about four days a week. For Earl, the bus is more than a convenient way to commute–it’s also a way to get hands-on understanding of her new position as Sound Transit’s chief operating officer.
Earl joined Sound Transit in October, assuming day-to-day responsibilities for all operations, including light rail, commuter rail, Regional Express, finance and administration, human resources, communication, legal and real estate departments. Among her top challenges: responding to concerns that Sound Transit’s light-rail plan will far exceed its budget.
"Our organization is only 4 years old, so we’re still in the gearing up mode; at the same time we’re trying to deliver a much-needed service," said Earl. "I was brought in to help deal with those systemic issues as well as to smooth external relationships. Since I have a budget and finance background, I’m also helping with the numbers side of the equation.
"It’s been crazy, but I love the challenges," she said. "At this point, I feel a little like I’m being fed with a fire hose."
Earl brings a long history of government service to her new job. As deputy county executive of Snohomish County, she represented the county on the Tri-County Salmon initiative and worked on the county’s first comprehensive growth plan. Prior to the Snohomish job, Earl worked as city manager of Mill Creek, and budget director of Kitsap County.
"I’m energized about this new job because transit is something I really believe in," she said. "Sure there are challenges, but anyone who works in government is used to overcoming obstacles."
Earl earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington State University and a master’s in business administration from Puget Sound. She and her husband, Everett Community College President Charlie Earl, have two grown children, Travis and Shelby.