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BART elects former San Francisco supervisor as new board president in divided vote

a bart train is seen in a dark tunnel at a station
File photo of a BART train stops at the Embarcadero BART Station in San Francisco, on June 6, 2023. | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

The BART board of directors elected a new president and vice president on Thursday to lead the board in 2024.

Director Bevan Dufty was chosen by colleagues as the next president—but not before a brief debate on how the role was being assigned, with two other directors raising questions about the process and offering another nominee.

The board left the selection of the next leadership duo as its final action of the year.

Outgoing president Janice Li made a motion for Dufty to succeed her, but director Liz Ames questioned why the board was deviating from its past policy of elevating the vice president and only taking nominations for a new vice president.

A man stands at a lectern.
Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty speaks during a board of supervisors meeting on Dec. 11, 2012. | Source: Carlos Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

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Ames said she disagreed with the motion, arguing the leadership rotation needed to be more equitable.

"I'm deeply saddened by this divisiveness," Ames said.

She said Director Debora Allen had not been nominated for either leadership role in her time on the board.

"I don't know what we're afraid of, but I do think there is something not right, that she could not be elected or nominated," Ames said.

Li said that Ames was welcome to nominate Allen, which she did. Allen, who appeared at the meeting remotely, said she agreed with Ames that the board should follow its past practice of having an automatic elevation of the vice president, and only take nominees for a new vice president.

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Li asked for clarification from the interim board counsel, who said that it was indeed a board policy but the board had the ability to override any of its policies and had frequently voted to do so.

A board member needs to win a simple majority of five votes on the nine-member board to win the leadership role.

Allen's nomination was considered first. She received three votes.

Dufty was considered next and won seven votes. Allen's Zoom screen apparently froze, so she was not able to cast her vote for or against Dufty.

"I am so proud of the work this agency does to support the Bay Area community," Dufty said. "I look forward to working hand in hand with the rest of the board in 2024."

Allen said that those without leadership experience could never gain it if they were kept out of leadership roles, which could hurt equity in the board's leadership. Dufty, a former San Francisco supervisor, was elected to the BART board in 2016 and again in 2020 and was the previously the board's president in 2019. His district 9 includes part of San Francisco, and Allen said that San Francisco's representative was getting the leadership role too often.

Allen nominated Ames for the role of vice president, but the motion did not receive a second. Mark Foley, the current vice president, was then unanimously selected to continue in the role, with Allen again unable to cast a vote due to technical difficulties.

The board has an unusually high number of upcoming vacancies, with four of the five members up for reelection in 2024 declining to run again, including Dufty.

"One of the most important things that we have to focus on is the transition," Dufty said. "We're letting a new generation come and become BART directors," he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Director Debora Allen was the board's vice president.