The SouthWest Transit Commission announced in a news release this week that its longtime chief executive officer, Len Simich, will retire by the end of the first quarter 2022.
Simich had informed the commission of his retirement plans last spring, and in October the commission contracted with the national placement firm KL2 Connects to begin the search for Simich’s replacement.
SouthWest Transit is the public transit agency for Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Chaska, and Carver, and Simich has been at its helm since 1997.
During his tenure, he helped grow the agency’s ridership by more than 400 percent, built four structured transit stations as well as SouthWest Transit’s administrative and maintenance facility, instituted the region’s first transit-oriented development (SouthWest Station in Eden Prairie), and helped establish one of the nation’s first and most successful micro-transit systems, SouthWest Prime.
Under his guidance, SouthWest Transit has been honored as the National Transit System of the Year by the American Public Transportation Association; a two-time honoree as the Minnesota Transit System of the Year by the Minnesota Public Transit Association; the first Minnesota transit agency ever honored as the recipient of the National Environmental Excellence Award given out by the federal Highway Administration; a three-time recipient of the Minnesota Management Innovation Award; a seven-time national award winner as the nation’s top transit agency for safety and security; and was the first Minnesota transit agency to receive the Excellence in Safety, Security, and Emergency Preparedness Award from the federal Transportation Security Administration.
In this week’s announcement, current SouthWest Transit chair and Chaska City Council member Mike Huang described Simich as “a champion of innovation, and as someone who always placed the needs of our communities and customers first.”
“Simich has been the face and voice of the agency from almost the beginning,” added Eden Prairie Mayor Ron Case, a former SouthWest Transit Commission member. “We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to him for making SouthWest Transit one of the most stellar public transportation systems in the nation.”
Simich shared that his plans for life after retirement are still taking shape. “I may have some opportunities to do some consulting as well as some work in the real estate world, commercial and development,” he said by e-mail. “We will see what makes itself available in the coming months.”
As for the accomplishments, he said there really isn’t one or two that stick out. “I’ve been blessed my entire career to be involved in some very exciting and, for the transit industry, cutting-edge projects,” he stated. “The support I have received from my fellow staff as well as the commission and city leaders has been exceptional.
“I think the thing I am proudest of is how our agency, one that had very few riders and virtually no assets, has grown into the agency we have today. I’ve been lucky to have a front-row seat during this time and consider myself a very lucky person.”
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