City announces familiar faces to leadership posts at Streets and OTIS

The Mayor’s Office announced the appointment of a handful of familiar faces to new leadership positions at the City’s Streets Department and Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems (OTIS) on Monday. Acting Streets Commissioner Michael Carroll was named Deputy Managing Director of OTIS, which oversees Streets, the Philadelphia Water Department, and the new Office of Complete Streets.

Carroll’s promotion set off a cascade of other promotions at Streets Department, finalizing a number of temporary appointments stemming from a pair of scandals in 2016.

At OTIS, Carroll replaces Clarena Tolson, who resigned her position as deputy managing director to become interim executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) after sexual harassment allegations forced former PPA chief Vincent Fenerty to resign. Carroll assumed the acting streets commissioner role after then-commissioner Don Carlton was suspended in May following his arrest for a fight in December of 2015.

After pleading guilty to the charges, Carlton moved to OTIS in the fall as deputy commissioner for operations.

Streets Department is essentially two departments in one: Sanitation and Transportation. Sanitation oversees trash and recycling. Transportation is responsible for the maintenance and improvement of the city’s streets, bridges, traffic signals, and streetlights. Before he was acting commissioner of the entire Streets Department, Carroll was deputy commissioner for transportation.

Carroll’s promotion drew immediate praise from 5th Square PAC, a small political action committee advocating for urbanist policies, which said Kenney made “an excellent choice.”

“We couldn’t think of a stronger candidate to lead the administration’s Vision Zero initiative,” the group said in a press release. A traffic engineer by training, Carroll is well versed in transportation policy debates over matters like bicycle lanes, complete streets, and Vision Zero.  

Replacing Carroll at the top of Streets is Carlton Williams, who previously served as deputy streets commissioner for sanitation. Williams also served as Mayor Michael Nutter’s final Licenses and Inspections (L&I) commissioner. When he took office, Kenney replaced Williams at L&I with Nutter’s Streets commissioner, David Perri, making this move the equivalent of a job swap. Williams weathered scorching criticism during his tenure at L&I, which included the deadly demolition-related Salvation Army building collapse in 2013. Keith Warren was named as the new sanitation deputy commissioner.

Richard Montanez was named Streets’ deputy commissioner for transportation. Montanez currently serves as the city’s chief traffic and street lighting engineer, overseeing upgrades to the city’s traffic signals and its automated red light camera program.

The Mayor’s Office also announced Christopher Puchalsky’s appointment as director of policy and strategic initiatives at OTIS. Puchalsky previously served as director of transportation planning at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

Puchalsky, who holds a Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania in transportation system engineering, will hold a similar title to Cara Ferrentino, who left OTIS in October for a position at the William Penn Foundation after helping the city’s bike share program launch, but Carroll said the position would be different.

Notably, the press announcement said that Puchalsky will “develop a comprehensive plan to address the city’s transportation needs.” When asked to elaborate on what the “comprehensive plan” would entail, Carroll played coy. “Stay tuned,” he said, “We’ve got some exciting ideas on how to move forward on planning for transportation.” The city already has plans for trails, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, complete streets, and is currently developing a Vision Zero Action Plan.  

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