Reinstill faith. Reaffirm the mission. And reinforce confidence. That was Phillip A. Washington's goal when he took over the reins of the troubled $6.5-billion FasTracks transit construction program as general manager of Denver's Regional Transportation District (RTD) in 2009.

He directed the creation of a transparent "lessons learned" document to help boost the staff's morale. "The information we had at the time was what we had to deal with," he says. "Don't become too defensive. Move on." The document is refreshed every year.

Now, the 122-mile program is chugging along, with a $2.2-billion public-private partnership that includes features that are the first of their kind in the


But perhaps Washington's most beloved project is the Workforce Initiative Now (WIN) program. A partnership among RTD, Community College of Denver, Denver Transit Partners and the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, WIN has helped some 400 disadvantaged residents in the past two years get training on RTD projects in their communities.

In successfully nominating Washington for the American Public Transportation Association's 2013 outstanding manager award, Lorraine Anderson, RTD chairwoman, emphasized his "vision and determination to make meaningful and far-reaching accomplishments and engaging in service to humankind." A 24-year decorated Army veteran, Washington compares public service, particularly transit, with the military, saying, "I can't think of any other profession where there is so much daily responsibility to serve so many people."

U.S. In 2011, Washington launched an industry forum that hosted 200 executives from around the world to seek out innovative ideas. The resulting unsolicited proposal policy launched two projects ahead of schedule. An internal savings account that Washington initiated will generate an extra $300 million by 2017. He also started a practice of regularly letting employees speak with him about anything and everything, in 15-minute slots.