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The Bi-State Development Agency’s new top executive declared Friday that improving security for MetroLink passengers would be his key goal.

“I have three priorities as your president and CEO and that is security, security and security,” Taulby Roach said at a news conference called to formally announce his hiring.

Bi-State’s board voted Nov. 16 to select Roach, a longtime transportation consultant for St. Clair County who also has deep ties to St. Louis city politics, pending negotiation of a contract.

Those talks ended last week and resulted in a five-year contract for Roach, who will be paid $280,000 a year. That’s less than the $325,000 salary for Roach’s predecessor, John Nations.

Nations announced in June he was leaving Bi-State, which oversees Metro Transit, after eight years in the job. He agreed to stay on until his successor was on board.

Roach, 51, will take over Jan. 1. Nations, a lawyer, will join the Evans and Dixon law firm.

Roach, in an interview, expressed support for the likely recommendations of a consulting firm studying MetroLink security for the East-West Gateway Council of Governments.

Among them are making police and Metro security officers more visible on MetroLink trains and limiting access to light rail platforms by re-designing some of the stations.

The study was begun after a series of high-profile serious crimes on the light rail system in recent years.

Roach also said in his remarks that he would emphasize engagement with passengers by Metro employees and “relentless customer service.”

Nations and Bi-State board chairman Constance Gully also spoke at the event at Bi-State/Metro headquarters in the Metropolitan Square building downtown. More than 100 employees and well-wishers were on hand.

Among them were Roach’s father, former St. Louis Alderman John Roach, and mother, Susan Feinberg, who was an assistant to then-Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl Jr. in the 1980s; and the current mayor, Lyda Krewson.

John Roach, who also is a former city community development director, played a key role in developing the first MetroLink line, which opened in 1993. Gully called him “a trailblazer for transit.”

Taulby Roach was picked from a list of six finalists. Krewson and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern attended and took part in meetings of the board’s search committee.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger or a top aide also participated in the sessions. Stenger and Nations have clashed over MetroLink security matters and on some other issues.

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