Jeffrey A. Parker, general manager and CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Agency, system, died by apparent suicide on the evening of Jan. 14, the agency announced.
Various news outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reported that Parker was struck by a train at MARTA's East Lake station.
Parker, 56, had served in the roles since March 2018, according to his LinkedIn page. He had also been MARTA's senior director of transportation from 2005-2008, and a vice president at HNTB in Atlanta for seven years before rejoining MARTA in his most recent positions.
In a statement, Rita Scott, chairwoman of MARTA's board of directors, said the agency "grieves the shocking death of our GM/CEO Jeff Parker who has died by suicide," adding that he was "an outstanding leader and steward of MARTA."
Scott added that "we are devastated at this loss as we valued Jeff’s leadership and looked forward to him bringing his vision for transit to fruition. The entire metro Atlanta region owes him a debt of gratitude for his transformational efforts and we will not stop working to build on the foundation he created."
Just two days prior, on Jan. 12, Parker had spoken at the agency's State of MARTA 2022 virtual event. There, he reported that in 2021, MARTA had achieved its 10th straight balanced budget, while also embarking on its largest-ever expansion plan, funded in part by a half-cent sales tax increase approved by Atlanta voters in 2016.
Also on that day, Parker tweeted that he was "excited about MARTA’s path ahead and thank you all for joining me on this incredible ride. A big thank you to [The Council for Quality Growth] and our local, state, and federal elected officials for making this past year one of extraordinary support."
On Jan. 15, the MARTA board named Collie Greenwood as interim general manager and CEO. With MARTA since 2019, Greenwood had served as director of bus operations and was named deputy general manager in January 2021.
Regarding Greenwood's appointment, a statement by the MARTA board noted: "Jeff Parker has built an incredible team of professionals to lead MARTA into its expansion phase with a renewed commitment to improving the customer experience." It said Greenwood, as head of operations, "has been central to that work, and his appointment ensures continuity of our shared vision."
The DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s office is reportedly investigating Parker’s death.
Area, Industry Officials React
News of Parker's death by suicide prompted numerous statements from area leaders and industry groups, such as the American Public Transportation Association, where he had served on the group's board.
In a statement posted to social media, APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas commented: "APTA, and the entire public transportation industry, are shocked and saddened to hear the news of Jeffrey Parker's passing. I had the privilege of knowing and working closely with Jeff over his decades in the industry, and he will be remembered for his outstanding leadership and dedication to advancing public transportation."
Local, regional and state officials also commented on Parker's leadership.
Georgia's Attorney General, Chris Carr, for instance, called Parker "a brilliant leader and a true advocate for innovation in transportation."
The Atlanta Regional Commission, via its social media channels, said Parker "was an inspirational leader who championed a modern, more equitable and customer-focused transit system, a vision that will be lasting."