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Episode 110 guest Leslie Richards

SEPTA’s Leslie Richards has led organizations at the local, regional, and state levels cognizant of two things: that more women should be involved in public service and that the best way to lead is by listening.


Cohen: Josh Cohen
Jensen: L’erin Jensen
Richards: Leslie Richards

Cohen: According to TransitCenter, women make up 39% of transit agency staff. At the executive level of these organizations, though, it’s a different story. Women only occupy the top post at three of the 15 largest public transit agencies in the U.S., including at SEPTA in Philadelphia where our guest today, Leslie Richards, is general manager. You’ll hear what Leslie is doing to get more women in leadership roles coming up now on The Movement podcast. Let’s go.

F: The freedom of movement to access jobs, education, and social activities is a fundamental human right, but that freedom is not distributed equitably, undermining our ability to create vibrant and sustainable communities for all. Welcome to The Movement where we talk with the leaders who are reshaping their communities with brave decisions, inspired advocacy, and a stubborn unwillingness to accept the status quo all in an effort to inspire the next generation of leaders. Here are your hosts Josh Cohen and L’erin Jensen.

Cohen: Our guest today is Leslie Richards, the general manager of SEPTA, the sixth largest public transit agency in the U.S., serving the Philadelphia region. Prior to SEPTA, Ms. Richards served as the Secretary of Transportation for the State of Pennsylvania and as a local elected official on the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors and the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. Welcome to The Movement, Leslie.

Richards: Hi, L’erin; and hi, Josh.

Cohen: Thank you so much for being here. As I just kind of teased here with your background, you have this really cool experience; local elected official, statewide appointed official, and now leading a regional transit agency. And I’d love to maybe understand a little bit of some of the leadership lessons you’ve learned in what I imagine are quite different roles in a lot of ways.

Richards: Well, sure. I have to say, I don’t get called cool a lot, so—[LAUGHTER]—I appreciate that, and I have to tell my children about that one. Yeah. I have had, you know, a variety of experiences, which I bring all of them to each role. And it has been, you know, very advantageous, even though they might seem very different to others. Throughout my entire career I’ve always focused on quality-of-life issues and creating equitable environments as well as building workplaces where everyone feels welcome and where they, you know, feel like they have opportunities for advancement. And also I think it’s very important to feel that the work is meaningful. And so that’s really been the theme of all the different stops I’ve had in my career here.

You know, starting out at the county level when I was an elected official there, I really saw the need for more women to be promoted on our boards and just to have their voices heard around important decisions. And so we started there and really strengthened our Montgomery County Commission on Women and Families, the membership there and the activities. They didn’t have a budget prior to my getting there, and so we fixed that as well, and then just tried to figure to trouble shoot what we could do to get more voices engaged. Of course, this was back in 2012 when there was a lot of disengagement in politics. I would say the last few years, no matter what you want to say about it, it has gotten people engaged. So we’re seeing more of that. But that was good to work on, and just we also put together, you know, a PAC that would asked elected officials how many women were on the boards where they had appointment responsibilities. And just giving them that question allowed them to take a look, and many times we found there would be zero women or just one or two. And so it was, you know, making them aware of it and then letting them know that we supported more gender parity and getting more female voices heard. So that was successful, and that was probably my first experience figuring something like, you know, an age-old problem but figuring out could we improve things.

Then when I got to PennDOT I was the first female to ever be the Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So also, you know, I worked on—I would often hear, you know, “That’s such a tough job,” you know, “I wouldn’t want that job,” or, you know—and I kept thinking, “Why wouldn’t you want this job? It’s an amazing job, and it’s a job where you can truly make a difference.” I mean, in addition to making sure people could get where they needed to go safely, you know, we got to work on human trafficking issues; we got to hire people with disabilities; we got to make sure that people had IDs when they were paroled from the state prison system so they could get second chances. We got to make sure that—because I was the first female in the role, you know, we looked at all of our documentation and went to gender neutral documentation, which the rest of the commonwealth is now looking at.

And so, you know, we were able to do, you know, what I thought really important and meaningful work. And so we created an mentoring and a shadowing program, so any female could spend a day with me and see what the job was like, you know, whether it was meeting with the governor or state reps or state senators or meeting with large businesses or traveling to transportation projects so they could see that, you know, you can do this job. Right? Humans always are doing this job, and I don’t want people to think, you know, or make it into something that only a small group of people can handle. You know, everyone brings their own personality and their own touch to that. And then now here at SEPTA, obviously working with equity in a very deliberate way as well and making sure that this is a welcome place and that our service provides a more equitable future for the region.

I do also want to touch on one lesson that I have found that has always been very valuable, is to listen. You come into the roles and you think you know what needs to be fixed or you think you know a direction you want to go into, and until you really listen—whether it’s constituents you’re representing or it’s employees you’re helping to lead, when you listen to where their concerns are, then you can really address needs and challenges. That’s been really important here, of course, leading SEPTA during the pandemic and other things that are changing so quickly with us. And so we’re listening to our customers, the ones who are coming back, how they feel on our system, that they feel safe, and that they can get to where they need to go. And we’re also listening to our customers who haven’t come back yet and how we can make them feel safe and what they need in order to come back.

I did that at the state level as well when we did transportation projects, just reaching out to the communities. And each transportation project means something different to each community. Everyone looks at a bridge differently. You know, sometimes it’s—you know, it can also provide pedestrian access; it can also get people to school; it can also get freight movements into business. And so you just have to look and see what means—you know, what are the unique characteristics of each place and also what everybody wants for that as well. So it’s always good to listen and then work together.

Cohen: You know, it sounds like that’s been a theme throughout your career, this listening. Have you adapted that; or how you’ve listened, has that evolved as you’ve learned as a leader and as you’ve grown as a leader?

Richards: Yeah. You know, one in particular lesson where it really became important and has really changed the way that I listen, that I lead, how I go about my responsibilities—and that came when I was a township supervisor. I got involved in local politics. And I was faced with, you know, what now I guess could be called a stereotypical local government issue, and that was putting lights on an athletic field behind our high school, public high school. And it was surrounded by three different residential neighborhoods. And working through that challenge—right? The residents didn’t want the lights; the school needed the lights; you know, the students needed fields to practice on in a developed township that didn’t have open space to build on.

And, again, the way that I went about it is, you know, we met with the school board, we met with the student groups, we met with all of the sports teams, we met with the residents. And just by listening and, you know, this very challenging issue, I asked, “Well, what would happen if we started to put limits on things?” Because what I realized is they weren’t really against the lights; they weren’t really against things, but there were certain things that made them uncomfortable, for instance, the noise that would come from, you know, people playing on the fields at all times of the day; or, you know, they really enjoyed their summer evenings, and they didn’t want lights coming into their houses at all times of the day, and they were worried about the brightness of things.

And so then we started having a conversation on, “Well, what if the lights were only allowed during these times? What if only certain groups were allowed to practice?” and we wouldn’t allow the band to practice on that field. You know, they would have to practice on a field that was on the other side of the school. “And what if we would only have activity on those fields during school hours, so you wouldn’t have to worry about your summer weekends?” and things like that. And we came up with an outdoor recreational lighting ordinance where everyone could agree on it. You know, I always say, you know, a good agreement is when everyone’s a little bit unhappy. And that’s where we got.

And, you know, there’s lights now on that field. It’s very well used. It’s been a great piece of, you know, a gathering place for our township. In fact, we celebrated a large anniversary when the township celebrated a large milestone, and we gather on that field, and it’s become, you know, a wonderful place. And that’s how we worked through it. And it seemed like an overwhelming—you know, I’m talking about public meetings that would have hundreds of people and yelling at each other and screaming at each other, but we worked through it. And it was really by listening that we were able to work through that. So I always remind myself of that. And it really does take the stress out of certain situations for me. I feel that if I can listen carefully, you know, we usually can figure out a way to navigate a tough situation.

Cohen: Yeah, especially because it seems like, you know, folks don’t always have to—you don’t always have to agree, as long as you listen and you give people an opportunity to feel heard.

Richards: Exactly. And even then if you make a decision or put something into a direction that people don’t agree with, at least they understand why you’re making those decisions. And so they need to understand why you’re getting to that decision; they may not agree with it, but I think that is also very important.

Jensen: So, Leslie, listening is something that I think that you probably had to do a lot of in this five-year plan that SEPTA came up with recently. Two of the main points at least, developing a proactive organization and providing an intuitive experience, would require you to do exactly that, listen to your constituents, your residents, see what they want. Rather than reacting to them, if you’re proactive you can provide them that intuitive experience as well. So I want to talk a little bit more about the SEPTA Forward strategic plan.

Richards: Mm-hmm.

Jensen: You took on this role in January 2020, and that was just before COVID turned SEPTA and so many other transit agencies upside down. So how has COVID impacted that Forward strategic plan that the board just approved?

Richards: Right. Look, you know, COVID’s had a profound impact on SEPTA as well as every single transit agency and, I would say, business in the United States. We know that transit, it’s an equity engine, and we are important in driving the region’s economy forward as well as being part of the recovery. But we also know that we’re going to have to adapt service and scheduling. We’ve been significantly impacted with decreased ridership changes. And we knew that we had to take a look at SEPTA’s future. Just because, you know, you’re in emergency mode what seems like every minute of every day, you know, you still have to plan for the future, and you still have to see what is it that we should be, you know, three years from now, five years from now, obviously getting us out of this recovery more on the short-term as well.

And so I’m really proud of how we’re adapting our organization, how we’re meeting the changing needs of our riders. And we’re acting with urgency to ensure that SEPTA continues to help Philadelphia and that we want it to be a resilient and prosperous as well as an equitable community that SEPTA serves. And we know that the future of Southeastern Pennsylvania is depending on it, so that puts a little bit of burden, you know, a little bit of weight or stress on it. But, you know, we’re happy to be in this position. And so SEPTA Forward, which is our new strategic plan, is the framework to transform our organization so that we can all work together toward the same goals. And it’s based on the lessons that we’ve learned, you know, over this past year and how we can support our region’s recovery, foster a resilient, prosperous, and equitable future.

You know, I’m really proud of our mission, which is SEPTA moves the Philadelphia region forward by providing safe, reliable, and accessible mobility choices for everyone. And the way we do that is we support equity and we enhance quality of life by connecting people with opportunity, catalyzing the economy and sustaining our environment. We know that teleworking is going to continue; we know that there is going to be a shift in people’s working schedules, what do our commutes look like. We know that we’ll be moving more toward what we call a lifeline schedule, not with the peak commuter times that we saw before the pandemic. It was already moving in that direction, but now that’s definitely accelerated. We want to make sure that we’re the mobility choice for people when they want to go shopping, you know, if they have medical appointments, if they want to meet friends for lunch and not just, you know, to get to and from work. And so this strategic plan marks an important step to establish that clear direction and priorities.

And so we will be getting broader input. It is a basic framework, definitely employee focused, and they will be an integral part of the plan, getting their input and getting their ideas as well. They really worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. We continued to provide service every single day, and they’ve been looking at riders’ needs as well and how our employees can best provide this essential—these essential trips and allowed us all to function in ways that were safe and kept us all healthy. And we will continue to do that far into the future, and, you know, we will adjust. And we are looking forward to working with everybody in this community for a strong regional recovery.

Cohen: I love the framing of that. You know, folks can check this out at and get to see it. And what I really love about this—I want to depart a little bit from some of the things we were talking about before but dig into this a little bit because it’s rooted in your mission, in your vision, and your values, which I just think is so important because I think it ensures that everyone is coming from a clear place.

And so I’d love to maybe understand how you’re reinforcing some of that on a daily basis, because, you know, you talk about your SEPTA spirit. And I’m curious. You know, certainly it’s one thing when you see it all nice and pretty on the website, but then I’m curious how you reinforce that on a day-to-day basis when you’re not, you know, you’re not dealing with the pretty logos but you’re dealing with the real-life situations. I’m curious, as a manager, as a leader how you’re kind of reinforcing that SEPTA spirit every day.

Richards: Sure. And look, it’s been challenging—right—when we all can’t be together, especially in large groups and communicate as easily as we would outside of the pandemic. You know, first of all, we’re always putting safety first and talking about that in a very thoughtful way. But there’s so many different areas of responsibility here at SEPTA. Right? It’s not just all the different modes; and we have those who work, you know, with our busses, with our trollies, with our subways, with our regional rail; but then we also have, you know, our engineers and our mechanics, you know, who are working on system safety and signalization. And then we all—you know, then there’s finance; then there’s the scheduling planning, you know, just such a variety of roles. And sometimes I think it can be lost, you know, what is your goal for today. Like, is it just to finish out this spreadsheet that needs to be filled out, or are we all together working toward creating this more equitable future for all of us?

So that’s why we felt very strongly about, you know, getting us all to a good place where we all felt good about the importance of SEPTA. And I do think that this pandemic has highlighted transit in some really positive ways, really, you know, getting all of the essential workers to where they needed to be and really supporting communities and allowing them, again, to be safe and healthy. And so all of our conversations, you know, we’re always asking questions, “How can we be better?” You know, we want to make sure that we’re truly inclusive, you know, obviously listening freely. We have started some internal groups, and these are part of the strategic plan as well. We have a section focused on diversity and making sure that there are internal as well as external resources, that we are checking in with each other.

We are looking toward seeing, you know, are we providing the service that is needed now; like, let’s make sure that we’re rightsizing according, again, to the rapidly evolving situation of the pandemic. We are focused on results. You know, we work very purposefully to make sure, again, that we’re effective; we’re efficient; we’re sustainable. That’s something that’s very important to all of us. There’s a sustainability element that is inherent in transit anyway, but we are also very focused on it and just making sure that it is clear, that people know that they matter. And so it’s the people that work here as well as our customers and also a reminder that even if you don’t ride SEPTA right now you’re still benefiting from SEPTA. You know, we’re taking cars off the road. We’re helping the air stay clean by reducing carbon emissions. And we’re providing opportunities for people throughout the greater Philadelphia region. And so just making sure, again, that we work together with that, that we support each other, and, you know, that we’re here, again, to be a real team and taking pride of what we’re doing and providing this essential service for millions of people across the greater Philadelphia region.

Jensen: You know, Leslie, something you said that stuck out with me was when you said the people that matter; you mentioned SEPTA employees. And that was the second time you’ve mentioned them in this conversation in terms of getting their input and what they believe is important and how to make SEPTA, I think, run better and just be an even better asset to the community. I think, talking to employees, getting employee engagement is so often left out of these conversations about how we can improve transit.

And it’s so important, because it’s just like with any other movement of sorts, talking to the people who are doing the work every single day is oftentimes the best way of gauging what is happening on the ground and what needs to happen. So sometimes it’s a little bit more difficult to talk to riders, just, you know, because you don’t see them every day, but drivers do. So I think that that needs to be—that conversation needs to be had more. I just want to commend you guys for that.

Richards: Yeah. No, look. And we are trying. And I do want to be upfront on this. I mean, there’s a lot of places that we need to be better. And so I felt very strongly when I got here that one of the first things, you know, we wanted to do is we did an organizational health index survey where, you know, we wanted everyone’s input, you know, “Where are we doing well, and where do we need to do better?” And we got a lot of good information with that, and now we have a lot of good things to work on. And it’s the result of this strategic plan as well. So, you know, it is always tough when you have a variety of roles and people are working in multiple, like, dozens of different facilities. It’s not like everyone comes to SEPTA and reports to the same building every day. And so that’s also a challenge, and a challenge in communicating with everybody as well as, you know, getting good feedback from everyone.

And so before the pandemic, you know, I did my best, for the first two and a half months that I was here, traveling, you know, always on the system and traveling to as many facilities as I could get to. But then all of a sudden that became unsafe. And if I didn’t need to be in a certain area, you know, I didn’t want to risk the fact that I could be carrying COVID and taking it to one of our machine shops or taking it to a bus depot or into a trolley shop. And so, you know, we’ve been working on it, but I—trust me; I really look forward to the day, and I hope that it’s soon that we can gather in larger groups and we can have some of these conversations. But just because you can’t do that right now doesn’t mean you stop. And so we’ve identified good areas to work on, and, you know, I really look forward to working on them now but also when that communication will be a little easier.

Cohen: For sure. For sure. Well, I think, building on another area that I’m sure has been one that, I think, would benefit from more communication between you and your team and the community writ large, in June you and your board chair Pat Deon wrote an open letter that said that SEPTA would not be neutral on issues of racial intolerance and injustice and that you would be a catalyst for change and part of the solution. And so I’m curious, more than anything, kind of as you’ve reflected on that over the course of the last eight months, what are some of the ways that you and your team have moved in that direction to make that a reality, to not be neutral on those issues.

Richards: Sure. Well, first of all, I’ll say, I felt very strongly that the support had to come from the board as well as, you know, myself and our senior staff. I think they really needed to see it, especially with my being, you know, a little newer on the scene. Our board chairman has been here for two decades now, a little over two decades. And so I wanted everyone to see that we are committed and we’re working together on this extremely important issue. We are one of the largest employers for people of color in Pennsylvania. We have 9,500 employees; 67% are minorities. And we’ve made it a priority to create initiatives and partnerships with our employees, again, to make sure that our workplace is welcoming to everybody and everybody can thrive and grow here. And so that obviously was extremely important.

And then with our chairman’s support, our employees were invited to take a diversity, equity, and belonging culture survey. They’re doing it right now, and I’m eager to see the results. We contracted with a firm that had expertise in this area because it was—you know, we wanted to get it right, and we wanted to be really thoughtful about it, and so we worked very hard on what were the questions we needed to ask, how would we get the survey out to everybody. Again, communications are so hard right now with everyone in their separate facilities and making sure that we got good feedback. But, you know, very excited to see that feedback, which we should have at the end of this month. And then we can put together some strategic initiatives that are aimed at advancing, you know, equity across our organization.

We did form and it was officially announced last month a new council, and it’s made up of internal employees here. It’s called our Diversity Equity and Belonging Council. And really thrilled we had over a hundred applicants, and we have three of our different unions who are represented; we have a variety of different departments represented. And I’m really looking forward on seeing the work that they are doing. And it will be fed by employee ideas. And so, again, I anticipate it’ll be a catalyst for developing policy changes, mentoring, coaching, employee resource programs, and I think it’ll make us a lot stronger.

We’ll also give employees a clear understanding of where they can go to talk through things, you know, whether they have a good idea, whether they feel challenged and are frustrated. And so, you know, they’ll have that resource as well. And I will tell you, you know, this council, it’s a member—I believe it’s 16, about 16 members. And I told you over a hundred applied, so we made sure that we reached out to everyone who was not selected to be on the council and we made sure that they have meaningful work as well, that we call them our change agents, and we have a variety of initiatives already lined up where they can provide their input.

One other initiative that has been put together is a book club. And when I came here they had already had one book club in the previous year, and it was time for us to select a new book. And so, you know, acknowledging that racial inequity is deeply rooted and it’s a very complex problem, this open book program was a platform to talk about, you know, difficult conversations and also to provide a safe space for where we could all talk about the issues that we’re grappling with but maybe too afraid to talk about during the work day or at the workplace. And so this year we chose a book; it’s by Jodi Picoult, who happens to be a local author here, and it’s called Small Great Things. And while it’s a piece of fiction, it’s allowing us to talk about some very serious, complex, difficult, uncomfortable situations. And so last night was our second meeting; there’s four meetings. And we’re reading the book in quarters, and so we got halfway through together. But just some of the topics that have come up that are difficult conversations, and the book allows us to bring, you know, bring up these issues. For instance, I didn’t know what code changing meant. And, you know, it was explained to me by some of our employees how sometimes you feel like you have to act differently when you have different audiences that you are addressing or in different meetings. Also one of our employees shared how difficult it was to be one of a few minorities in their school system. And while they were at school everything was great and they were always included during the school day, but then once the school day ended, you know, they rarely were invited to participate in group activities. They were talking about there’s a storyline in the book where someone is told that it’s not appropriate for them to ask someone else to a prom because they’re of different races. And meanwhile this is someone who’s been very close to the family and has gone, you know, has had dinner at the house all the time, but, you know, had to listen to the hard news that it wasn’t an acceptable date, while it was an acceptable dinner guest.

And so that brought up, you know, a lot of conversations as well. So those are just examples of the topics that we’re discussing, you know, with colleagues and, again, making it a very safe place. You know, that’s how we improve situations; that’s how we’re all going to move forward together, by explaining where our discomfort is and asking questions to better understand how we can best support each other. And I’m really pleased with how it’s going so far. It’s been a really rewarding experience.

Jensen: I’m curious to know how those conversations are impacting SEPTA’s work externally.

Richards: Yeah. Well, I think it’s giving us all—because, you know, look; we provide a service to communities, and sometimes those communities are very different than the ones we grew up in or the ones we go home to and we live in. And so, I think, it’s given us a very good understanding of how different every community is and how they all interact with each other. I think it’s also given our employees different perspectives. You know, we often interact with people when they’re not having a good day—right—like if they’re running late for something, if they are in a rush to get somewhere, if they have an emergency trip, or if they’re having a challenging day getting to where they need to be. And so I think it’s also giving everybody some empathy and realizing that people are—you know, they bring along backgrounds and different outlooks on things and definitely could be coming from different perspectives. We don’t all see things the same way. And so I think it’s making us all better in how, again, we provide more inclusive service to our customers.

Jensen: That’s great. It definitely starts with conversation.

Richards: Mm-hmm.

Jensen: So I want to pivot a little bit. We’ve got one more question for you. Who and maybe what are some of the things or people that have influenced you and influenced your work in public service?

Richards: Yeah. I mean, we started off this podcast and, you know, talking about my unique, I would say, career path. And it kind of—you know, it happened step by step. I will say, I was inspired by my neighbors. When we moved into our neighborhood in Whitemarsh Township, you know, I wanted to get involved in the community. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom. I had worked for an environmental engineering firm for a little bit and the EPA for a little bit, and then for eight years a stay-at-home mom. I have three children. And wanted to, you know, do productive work, of course, wanted to improve the quality of life of our community. So I volunteered for our Township Day and got involved in a way that I really enjoyed.

And, you know, while I was running the pony rides and the prize booth and as all the neighbors were coming to gather, you know, I just found it so nice to have opportunities—right—to interact with all of our neighbors and to get to know everybody. And after enjoying that—and that, by the way, is still—you know, I helped with the first one back in 1999, and it’s still going strong, which is great. From there I started to realize—and I didn’t realize it before this—that there’s, you know, a structure where decisions are made in a municipality. And so Township Day was run by our parks and rec board. And then I was asked to join the parks and rec board, which I really enjoyed. And then I chaired that board for a while. We did a comprehensive park plan and looked at, you know, all the different uses of our park facilities.

And then from there I was asked to join our planning commission and really enjoyed, you know, helping with development that was coming into the municipality and major decisions of how development would go. And, you know, storm water issues were being dealt with as well as, you know, economic development, open space preservation. And then, to my surprise, I was asked if I would want to run for township supervisor, which was something I never thought of doing. And at this time I was back working part-time at a civil engineering firm. And, you know, I thought about it. And, you know, at the time I was turning 40, and I thought, “Hey, this would be a nice new adventure.” Right? Never thought of running for office. So I said no a few times but then was talked into it.

And we ran and our team won the majority at the time. I became the chair of the board of supervisors, and it did not take long after that, I’d say just a few months, to realize that very important decisions that impacted my family’s quality of life, my neighbors’ quality of life were made at that township board of supervisors. And I really enjoyed that work.

You know, it was very difficult work. Of course, the people who are coming to your meeting you also see, you know, on the soccer field while your kids are playing, while you’re grabbing coffee, while you’re at the supermarket. Not everybody is always loving you all the time. They always have something to say. But, again, I just enjoyed listening to all the issues and trying to figure out, you know, solutions to make our community just a great place to be while working on preserving a farm that was very large, 400 acres, in the middle of our township, that if it had been developed, you know, would really impact the population in our schools, the traffic on our roads, the flooding throughout the township.

In trying to preserve that piece of land, I went in front of the county board of commissioners; and then all of a sudden I realized, “Wow. You can do this during the day and actually get paid for it?” and do it on a countywide basis. And so, you know, we ran and was—you know, we ran hard. I’m not saying we didn’t work hard for it, but obviously was very grateful to win that election and get to serve there. And then, you know, loved that public service. Then I met a business man in Pennsylvania by the name of Tom Wolf and was sharing my interests with him, and he was interested in what we were doing at the county, particularly on infrastructure and consolidating departments, saving money, getting bridges fixed, roads fixed, as well as, you know, some of our county owned facilities. He runs for governor, and, you know, I want to help him in any way that I can. We talk about a variety of ways. I meet with his transition team, and then just thrilled that the best fit that he felt and I felt to help him was as his secretary of transportation.

Cohen: Wow.

Richards: And so then I got to run that statewide. Again, I don’t want to make it sound like it was a slam-dunk. Other people were competing for those jobs, you know. And we met and I brought to him what I thought we could do, which included a lot more than just getting people from point A to point B, but, you know, also improving people’s lives throughout the commonwealth. And so I was thrilled to be in that position. And in that work I also got to chair the Turnpike Commission, and another member of the commission was the chairman of SEPTA.

So we’ve dealt with some difficult issues and challenging issues together, and then really never saw this opportunity but was thrilled when he said, “Hey, would you be interested in considering coming back to Southeastern Pennsylvania,” where I’m from, “and helping run this transit agency and working on a lot of the goals that we had worked together, you know, at the commonwealth?” And was thrilled that the board agreed with that idea, and so here we are. And while it’s a, I would say, a windy path here, it kinda all makes sense.

Cohen: For sure. For sure. Well, I think there’s a lot there. And certainly, I think, from the perspective of some common themes as it relates to listening throughout your career to your neighbors, your colleagues, your employees, your team, certainly reinforcing to people that they matter and certainly recognizing that a lot of good work can really get done and important decisions can be made at that local level. So it’s exciting to see the impact you’ve made. And we appreciate you taking the time to join us on The Movement podcast.

Richards: Yeah. No, this was great. I don’t always get to think about these things. You know? [LAUGHS] The work these days has been in real, you know, emergency reactions over, I would say, the last year. And so I really appreciate this opportunity. It was great talking with you.

Cohen: Thank you so much.

Jensen: Yeah, thank you so much.

F: Thanks for listening. If you like what you hear, head to Apple Podcasts and subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can find out more at or follow Josh Cohen on Twitter at @CohenJP. Be sure to join us next week for another episode of The Movement.