MTD executive Sherrie Fisher found herself on the receiving end of a ceremonial love fest during the county supervisors’ meeting Tuesday one week before retiring after 40 years with the agency. Fisher not only was the first woman ever to drive for MTD — back in 1974 — but she also rose through the ranks to become general manager in 2003 after her predecessor, a gifted but personality-challenged administrator, was forced to resign.
As evidenced by the supervisors’ accolades, Fisher brought to the post a much-needed ability to get along with government officials upon whose good graces MTD’s funding depended. “You are kind. You have a loving, gentle soul. Yet you are strong in your administration of MTD through some difficult challenges,” gushed Supervisor Janet Wolf. Dick Weinberg, former Carpinteria mayor and MTD boardmember, welled up singing Fisher’s praise. “I’ve never heard an unkind word from her mouth,” he said “Yet she rules the roost.”
For those Santa Barbarans forgoing the automobile in favor of mass transit — low-wage workers and students young and old — MTD has offered an essential life function, providing 200,000 hours of transit service a year. During Fisher’s tenure, she’s been forced to cut some bus routes because of low ridership while scrambling to secure additional service linking City College to UCSB, where demand has exploded as City College students have increasingly sought housing in Isla Vista.
Last year, Fisher and MTD faced down a potential loss in federal funding to the tune of $4.6 million, which would have meant layoffs for 50 of the district’s 150 drivers and the elimination of 60,000 hours of service. Although that crisis was averted at the last minute, Fisher and the board found themselves forced to concoct worst case scenario plans.
Fisher thanked the supervisors for their kind words and said she planned to sleep for the first week of her retirement, travel to Belize during the second, and after that attend her 50th high school reunion. She will be replaced for the next six months by MTD administrator Jerry Estrada, a 25-year veteran of the transit agency who will serve as interim director.