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Retirement will cap Gulley's 24 years supporting Triangle Transit, 9 as its lawyer

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Wib Gulley says he’ll retire this summer after nine years as the in-house lawyer for Triangle Transit, and 24 years as one of the region’s chief advocates for public transportation.

“It’s really great to look back and reflect how far this has come in terms of creating a vital organization that serves an important service in the region,” Gulley, who turns 65 in July, said Friday.

As Durham mayor from 1985 to 1989, Gulley helped launch the three-county transit agency and became its first board chairman in 1989. He was Triangle Transit’s primary legislative champion during six terms in the state Senate, where he chaired a subcommittee that oversees transportation spending.

In 2004 Gulley was embarrassed when the Triangle Transit board refused in a split vote to hire him as its general counsel. Some board members said his Senate duties would divert too much of his attention away from the job. But he got the job two months later after he resigned his legislative seat.

He left the Senate, he said then, partly because his work as a lawmaker kept him from earning enough money as a lawyer with a small private practice in Durham. He started out at Triangle Transit with a salary of $112,700. Now he is paid $170,343.

Gulley said he’ll stay on the job a little while after the board finds a successor, and then figure out how to spend his new free time.

“I don’t know exactly what comes next. I’m excited about small things such as more sports, reading, travel. I think I’ll probably end up with some kind of engagement, because there are a lot of interesting possibilities out there in the Durham community and our region,” Gulley said.

Gulley has played a lead role as Triangle Transit worked with local governments to develop plans for beefed-up bus service and new rail transit lines. In April, Durham and Orange county residents will start paying a half-cent sales tax to help pay for the transit expansion, which was approved by voters in the two counties. Wake County commissioners have not agreed to let voters consider the transit tax.

“(Gulley’s) unique combination of skills have been invaluable as we have worked through the legal and public policy implications of the statute which now enables each of our three counties to develop and fund and implement county transit plans,” David King, Triangle Transit’s general manager, said in a news release. “We will miss him greatly.”

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About the blogger

Bruce Siceloff reports on traffic and transportation. A News & Observer reporter, editor and blogger since 1976, he took over the Road Worrier column in 2003. Lately he drives I-40 with the cruise control set at 68 mph. You can e-mail Bruce, call him at 919-829-4527, check out his Crosstown Traffic blog or follow him (@Road_Worrier) on Twitter.