Mass Transit Administration head John A. Agro Jr. announced late yesterday he will retire early, leaving the state agency after 3 1/2 years of service. Agro, 50, said he is taking advantage of an early retirement bill enacted by the 1996 General Assembly, which provides an enhanced benefits package to those who retire before they would normally be eligible.
"It was a very difficult decision," Agro said. "It was not something that I was really looking to do. The [early retirement] bill really accelerated my thinking on the issue.
"If you look at my career in state government, it's actually been very rewarding," he said.
"I've had positions of great responsibility, and I've been very pleased and happy to serve in those capacities. It's difficult [to leave] when you take a great deal of interest and pride in an organization like the MTA."
Agro said he will continue in his position through December and will help in the search for his replacement, slated to begin immediately.
The abrupt announcement surprised many MTA staff members, who learned of Agro's decision yesterday in a staff meeting, according to Liz Kalinowski, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
"We're certainly disappointed," Kalinowski said.
"From what I understand, there was a combination of surprise and disappointment and well-wishes among the staff," she said. "He has really turned things around at the MTA and made some real positive changes with the agency."
Agro, who worked 14 years at the State Highway Administration, will begin a search for a position in the private sector, he said.
When Agro took the helm, the MTA was an embattled agency criticized for running wildly over-budget on new projects and struggling with complaints of discrimination from minority workers, escalating crime on the light rail system and crowded Maryland Rail Commuter service trains that failed to run on time.
Within two years, Agro was widely praised for having made serious headway on most agency problems. The trained accountant worked 12-hour days to bring the MTA into line, he said.
The state early retirement bill, which offered benefits to about 7,000 state employees, passed the General Assembly in April.
The measure contained a so-called more humane method of scaling back the government employment roll. About 60 percent of the vacated positions will not be filled.
The deadline for applying for early retirement is Saturday.
Pub Date: 8/27/96