AUSTIN (KXAN) — Interim CapMetro President and CEO Dottie Watkins will officially take over the position as head of Austin’s transit authority, following approval by CapMetro’s board of directors Monday.

Watkins began her multi-decade career as a bus operator with CapMetro while a student at the University of Texas Austin. Since last May, she has served as interim head of the transit agency, following former CEO Randy Clarke’s departure to lead the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in Washington, D.C.

Watkins’ contract is set to begin Monday, with a base salary of $357,555, per CapMetro backup documents.

Ahead of the official approval Monday, some public commenters shared their approval of Watkins’ leadership. Darrell Sorrells, vice president of ATU Local 1091 in Austin, said Watkins’ long tenure with CapMetro and responsiveness to drivers and other tiered employees make her more than qualified for the job.

“You deserve it,” Sorrells said. “No outsiders in. You’re a woman, you’re qualified, you exceeded and excelled beyond your fiduciary duty for this position.”

Resident Susan Pantel said that while they approved Watkins’ selection, they didn’t appreciate the “secretive” manner through which she was selected and the lack of public meet and greets for community members to be part of the hiring process.

During a presentation from the board prior to contract approval, CapMetro officials said approximately 50 applicants were considered for the position. Following a narrowing down to the final five applicants, board members and transit officials said Watkins rose above her competitors for the role.

Following the board’s vote certifying her selection, Watkins called the offer “a complete honor” and added she feels as if she’s grown up with the city and now the city has grown up with her.

She highlighted not only her multi-decade tenure with CapMetro, but also referred to herself as a “second generation CapMetro employee,” with her father a retiree of the transit authority.

“I am very excited at the opportunity to lead this organization to great things and I know that together, we’ll make it happen,” she said.

Officials said there will be public engagement opportunities for residents to meet with Watkins in the coming weeks.