Robert Snyder, a veteran highway engineer, has left city government after less than four months on the job.
Named chief of the traffic division in late November following a nationwide search, Snyder “is no longer working with the Department of Transportation,” Kathy Dominick, an agency spokesperson, confirmed in an e-mail yesterday.
Dominick would not answer any other questions about Snyder’s brief tenure, which shocked several community activists who had learned of his departure through the grapevine.
“I am very surprised given the enthusiasm he had expressed for his job,” said A. Elina Toole, Mt. Washington Improvement Association’s traffic calming coordinator, who met with Snyder in January and last month.
“It was clear he knew what he was doing,” Toole said. “He had analyzed traffic in the entire area before our meeting and had a clear vision of what was needed. We were developing a plan to deal with dangerous conditions around our schools and in the business district. He was very engaged.”
Snyder did not reply to a request for comment. He had come out of retirement, living out of state, to head the traffic division following a 32-year career at the Maryland Department of Transportation.
There’s been no official announcement of his departure. DOT Director William H. Johnson and Deputy Mayor of Operations Khalil Zaied did not respond to Brew questions.
DOT’s previous traffic chief, James E. Harkness Jr., left the $91,000-a-year post last spring. Snyder had made one of his first public appearances at the Safer Roads for North Baltimore Community Coalition in early January.
Shelley Sehnert, a member of the coalition, recalled him as “a smart guy. He spoke quite eloquently.”
Upper-level DOT staff includes many good technical people, Sehnert and Toole said, but turnover in the agency has made it difficult to accomplish positive change.
“You develop a relationship, but then they leave and you have to build another. It’s two steps forward and one step back,” Toole noted.
One example is William “Billy” Hwang, who was recruited from Maryland DOT to replace Jamie Kendrick as deputy director in 2012. Hwang lasted 12 months before returning to the state.
Hwang is now chief of staff at the District of Columbia Department of Transportation.