Kim Zentz, the chief executive officer of the Spokane Transit Authority, announced Thursday she’s going to take a one-year job as interim executive director of the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute.
Zentz said the decision reflected her desire to find new challenges.
“This offer was an opportunity that’s timely for me, because my heart has always been in the area of helping startups and technology initiatives,” Zentz said after the SIRTI board made the announcement.
No contract has been signed. Zentz said she and SIRTI’s board have not finished hammering out the terms and salary for the job.
Both sides say they expect Zentz to start her new job March 1.
Zentz’s two years at Spokane Transit have been focused on turning around a public transit agency beset by budget stresses and public criticism for reducing some services.
She joined the agency shortly after the first of its two recent requests to voters for special taxes it said were necessary to continue services. Voters defeated the first proposal in 2002 but passed the second one last spring.
Before taking on the STA job, Zentz headed Avista Labs, a technology company focused on designing hydrogen fuel cells. The company is now called ReliOn. Zentz was president there for four years.
She made an announcement about her departure to STA board members during their regular meeting Thursday.
The SIRTI position is open after the resignation in late 2004 of former executive director Patrick Tam. Tam’s resignation followed allegations by SIRTI workers that he had created a hostile work environment. Tam was paid $140,000 a year.
SIRTI derives nearly all its annual budget, about $1.3 million, from the state. Its goal is to help young companies grow by offering assistance on marketing, product development, financing and other programs. SIRTI employs 15 people.
SIRTI board Chairwoman Nancy Isserlis said the goal is for Zentz to become a candidate for the permanent executive director’s job in 12 months. “We’ve encouraged her to apply,” Isserlis said.
Isserlis said the board will launch a nationwide search for a permanent executive director.
Zentz said her decision to take the SIRTI job didn’t indicate dissatisfaction or boredom with her job at STA. If she and the SIRTI board don’t reach agreement on a one-year contract, she’ll return to her STA job, Zentz said.
“If that happens, I’ll be happy to carry on with the initiatives we’ve started at STA,” she said.
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