Richland County recently hired a new transportation director to oversee the penny program and the contractor hired to carry out the $1.07 billion infrastructure improvement initiative.

Dr. John Thompson – a Certified Public Manager with a master’s degree in Business Administration – started January 8.

The A.C. Flora High School graduate has returned home and brings to the department a deep background in management deemed critical to correcting the programmatic challenges facing the transportation program and revealed in a recent internal audit presented to County Council in November.

“Most of the issues revealed regarding the transportation program could have been avoided with strong management oversight,” said County Administrator Gerald Seals.

“We needed someone who had the equivalency of a government manager to run this department considering the budgetary, contractual and administrative issues the director has to address on a daily basis. It was vitally important that we get someone with the right skills to manage all aspects of the program,” Seals said.

Thompson, who headed governmental agencies in Fulton County and the District of Columbia, has experience turning around governmental agencies with financial and operational issues. His extensive and diverse management background will enhance a department currently staffed by professional engineers.

The technical skills of professional engineers are critical to the actual completion of transportation projects. Compounded with that, Seals said there is a need for superior program management skills for the $1 billion program.

“One of the absolute necessary functions of the department is to have a drawdown schedule,” Seals said, referring to an estimate of payments to a contractor over a period of time during a project. “Dr. Thompson understood and was able to produce this information very shortly after his arrival.”

Seals said that example illustrates the level of professional management experience Thompson brings. The critical areas in the department, which Seals said need immediate managerial attention, are:

  • Contract management
  • Organizational development
  • Performance standards
  • Capital projects financing

The Richland County Transportation Program includes projects throughout the county during a 22-year period or until $1.07 billion in sales tax revenue is collected. The program is divided into three major categories – roadways, The COMET and bicycle/pedestrian/greenways – and includes such projects as road widenings, intersection improvements, sidewalks, bikeways and dirt road paving. The Program Development Team, or PDT, is a group of private firms hired by Richland County Council manages the day-to-day design and construction of projects funded by the program. The County’s Transportation Department has oversight of the PDT.

Thompson brings the experience needed to effectively run the department and oversee the contractor.

Thompson, whose doctorate is in health services, headed governmental agencies where he provided executive-level policy analysis to elected officials and realigned departments to improve service delivery for residents. He has served as an organizational development consultant and executive director of a local community development corporation.

In addition, he has experience in contract management and as an adjunct professor, faculty chair and guest lecturer with several universities. Thompson has experience in authoring and managing grants. He’s the recipient of numerous awards and has volunteered for several years at different organizations where he has served in multiple capacities including as a reviewer of federal grant proposals.

“We’re excited to have Dr. Thompson join Richland County,” Seals said. “His insight, organizational, supervisory, research, writing and analytical skills, as well as his ability to understand technical issues, are already proving to be an asset.”