Executive Director Bart R. Mueller will step down from the South Jersey Transportation Authority on July 1, the authority said in a release.
Mueller, a 61-year-old resident of Oaklyn in Camden County, has served as the top official for the authority, which oversees the Atlantic City Expressway and Atlantic City International Airport, since Jan. 1, 2007.
It was not immediately clear what Mueller would do next. The release said Mueller “has several business and career options under consideration and will announce his decision at a later date.” Authority spokesman Kevin M. Rehmann said he understood that Mueller would be leaving public life.
A replacement at the authority has not been announced.
The SJTA had $106 million in operating revenues and $87.3 million in operating expenses in 2011.
Mueller was paid $156,180 last year, according to state salary data. He would be eligible, according to state pension estimates, for a pension worth about $46,855 a year.
During Mueller’s tenure work began on a third westbound lane for the expressway and high-speed Express E-ZPass lanes were added at both the Pleasantville and Mid-County toll plazas.
Consequently, the authority said, the number of E-ZPass users increased from almost 40 percent in July 2003, when he joined the authority, to almost 67 percent as of March.
The authority also privatized toll collections, which eliminated 45 positions as of January. The authority said the move saved in excess of $1 million this year.
Overall, the authority said it shrank between 2007 and 2012 by more than 21 percent, to 293 full-time positions.
The number of air passengers who used the Atlantic City International Airport also increased under Mueller’s term, the authority said. It said approximately 1.4 million passengers used Atlantic City International in 2011, an increase of almost 450,000 since Mueller became executive director.
At the airport, the SJTA constructed a new parking garage, began expanding the terminal and started construction on a new airport firefighting and rescue facility.
It was a bumpy path that brought Mueller to the SJTA.
Mueller retired from Bell Atlantic in 1996 after he was elected the Camden County surrogate, a county position that oversees wills, orphans and estates.
Mueller resigned from that position in 2000 after allegations that some of his employees worked on Democratic ex-Gov. Jim Florio’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign. Under state law surrogates may participate in partisan politics, but their employees may not.
He also was fined $4,350 to settle allegations of campaign finance violations during his time as surrogate.
Mueller was named the Camden County parks director after his resignation. He joined the SJTA in 2003 as the programs director in charge of E-ZPass along the expressway in a hiring that was sharply criticized as a patronage-padding move. Mueller was named executive director several years later.
SJTA board member Bob McDevitt said Mueller “brought a competence and leadership to the SJTA that was, I think, a real compliment to him and really moved the agency forward. I mean, the guy is a consummate professional.”
McDevitt, president of the casino workers union UNITE HERE Local 54, said that Mueller never asked workers to make a sacrifice he was unwilling to make, including recent increases for health care benefits.
“A guy like him lands on his feet,” McDevitt said.
Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic, who recently became a grandfather, said he had talked about that with Mueller, whose daughter also recently gave birth.
He had issues with the SJTA and Mueller — most recently regarding cashless tolls at Exit 17 in Hamilton Township — but credited him with being able to sit and negotiate.
“I like Bart as a person,” Amodeo said. “I think he’s a good man. We might have had our differences, but we were able to sit at a table and talk it out and work it out.”
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