By Will Reisman, @WillReisman
Jerry Deal began his career as a public official 20 years ago when he joined the Burlingame Planning Commission. In the two decades since, he’s been elected to the Burlingame City Council, accepted appointments to sit on the Caltrain and SamTrans boards, respectively, and recently joined the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA). All this while holding down a full-time job as a residential designer.
So, when an opportunity arose to step back from the eventful and demanding public schedule he’d embarked upon so many years ago, he made the tough decision to accept it.
“When you go through life, you have this image of where you want to be, and what you want to be doing at a certain point,” said Deal. “We were offered something, where we basically said, ‘we can’t pass this up.’”
That something is a nice little spread on the Rogue River in Oregon, where Deal will be able to go fishing, enjoy the summer nights, and relax with his family. Unfortunately, it also means he’ll have to retire from his roles as a director on boards of SamTrans and Caltrain, which are both managed by the San Mateo County Transit District.
“It’s been utterly fantastic to be part of this team and this adventure, especially with Mike Scanlon at the helm,” said Deal, who will continue to work in the Bay Area several weekends a month at his residential design firm. The company, J Deal Associates, offers advice and expertise on interior and exterior home redesign, feasibility studies for potential alterations and other residential improvement services.
Deal joined the SamTrans Board of Directors in 2009, replacing Carole Groom as a city council representative following Groom’s election to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. In 2011, he was appointed to the Caltrain Board of Directors, replacing former San Carlos Mayor Omar Ahmad, who passed away unexpectedly.
During Deal’s tenure at the Transit District, Caltrain has recorded record ridership numbers, reaching nearly 60,000 daily passengers in June. Deal has been a guiding hand on the Caltrain board while the rail agency embarks on its $1.5 billion modernization plan, which includes the electrification of the system and the installation of vital train control technology.
He also oversaw the implementation of the SamTrans Service Plan (SSP), an expansive retooling of bus operations on the Peninsula. Since the SSP was rolled out in February, ridership on SamTrans has increased, reversing a years-long trend of declining ridership, and on-time performance has also improved. Along with his colleagues on the SamTrans board, Deal approved a new contract with the bus operators’ union. The pact provided the workers with three percent annual raises over the next three years, and negotiations came without any disruption to service.
Deal said he was most proud of the role SamTrans and Caltrain have played in the Bay Area’s regional transportation network.
“We all know that we have to get more cars off the road,” said Deal “Caltrain takes five percent of the daily commuters off Highway 101 and SamTrans removes three percent. Without those contributions, the traffic congestion in the Bay Area would be a nightmare.”
Deal said he’ll have fond memories of working with staff members at Caltrain and SamTrans.
“The staff members here do such as thorough job—they make it really easy to build up that trust,” said Deal. “As a director I had to ask questions of them, but because they we’re always so prepared, I never had a major confrontation.”
Deal’s last SamTrans board meeting was on Sept. 3, followed by his final Caltrain board meeting on Sept. 4. He will officially step down from public office on Sept. 21, his last day as a Burlingame Councilmember.
“It’s pretty amazing how many people you meet while you’re on a board of directors,” said Deal. “I don’t think I can keep in touch with everyone I’ve met over the years, but it’s nice to know that I’ve made plenty of friends while at SamTrans and Caltrain.”