In the first week of April 1995, near "April Fool's Day," 48-year-old Lucilla (Lucie) Ayer was named the de-facto planning-czar, executive director of Hillsborough county's arcane, agenda driven long range transportation planning agency -- the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Ayer, an alumna of the University of Miami where she graduated cum laude with a master's degree in urban and regional planning and an undergraduate degree in urban sociology, was hired into her then new position at a starting salary of $84,000 and placed in charge of the MPO's 25 person planning bureaucracy.
Ayer's career path to this position, gained over 65 other applicants, was carefully orchestrated by her boss, long-time friend and mentor, Tom Thomson who had previously resigned as MPO director in November. For years, Thomson had been Ayer's most constant and dependable supporter. In fact, it had been Thomson six-years earlier in 1989, who had mentored Lucilla to the Hillsborough county MPO from a Miami post with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), itself a position for which he had earlier hired her. Explained Thomson, "I've hired her twice, and I know she is coming to this job [MPO executive director] with all the qualities and talents she needs. Her experience with the MPO will let her get a running start. She already knows the board members and she knows the issues."
Robert Hunter, executive director of the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission, concurred in Thomson's recommendation and effected the final hiring decision. On the occasion of Ayer's posting Hunter explained: "She has a unique background and an intimate knowledge of state and federal laws. It was Ayer's work previous post with the Metro-Dade Transit Agency and experience administrating both aviation, rail, road and transit projects that impressed interviewers. She has a working knowledge of how Metro-Dade developed its multi-modal [rail in particular] operations that we can use in this community." In layman's terms, Ayer had been a "good soldier" and dependable functionary in that massive economic disaster and Taxpayer transit ripoff known as Metro-Dade's MetroRail Metro Mover transit system.
In truth, perhaps Ayer's most attractive professional qualifications to mentors Thomson and Hunter was their shared perception of her devotion and willingness to serve the planning establishments relentless and wrong-headed crusade to push their pet transit fetish -- light rail; a bias "signaled" in an earlier Hunter quote: "We can never build enough roads, so the community is looking to other modes of transportation [rail]." Like an impassioned firefly, Ayer had enthusiastically "signaled" back to her "Railist" mentors that her "...background ..." made her: "...more receptive to nontraditional transportation ideas [particularly rail]..." and, "...one form of transportation shouldn't be pitted [economically evaluated] against another."