The Texas Transportation Commission appointed a new executive director for the Texas Department of Transportation Thursday: James Bass, the agency’s longtime chief financial officer.
Commissioners have been searching for a new executive director for the sprawling agency since October, when current transportation head Joe Weber announced he would step down at the end of the year. The agency received more than 70 applications. Bass was one of eight applicants interviewed, spokeswoman Veronica Beyer said.
Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to appoint Bass as the new head of TxDOT starting Jan. 1.
Commission Chairman Tryon Lewis said Bass has repeatedly proved himself essential through difficult periods for the agency in the past.
"The commission could depend on his discretion and his judgment and his honor and his honesty in those occasions," Lewis said.
Bass began working at TxDOT in 1985 and has been CFO since 2005. Bass served as the agency's interim executive director before the commission selected Weber, a Texas A&M University official who was also a former military leader and longtime friend of Gov. Rick Perry.
Bass will be a familiar face to many state lawmakers as a regular at the Capitol for years, often testifying before committees about the agency's finances and, perhaps more often, its financial challenges.
But Bass is taking over the agency as it’s poised to see its funding grow significantly after voters approved Proposition 7 in the Nov. 3 election. That measure dedicates $2.5 billion of the general sales tax to the highway fund beginning in 2017 — as well as a portion of future motor vehicle sales taxes beginning in 2019. That, along with other measures by the Legislature over the last three years, is expected to get TxDOT close to the $5 billion in extra funding it said it needed annually to maintain current traffic levels in such a fast-growing state.
Commissioners also praised Weber's tenure at the agency.
“Over the last two years, you’ve encapsulated what it means to be a forward-thinking, action-oriented leader for this massive agency we call TxDOT,” Commissioner Jeff Moseley told Weber.
Weber is currently paid a salary of $299,000. Bass’ salary in the new position will be $299,812.44.