Palm Tran director dies shortly after presentation to Gardens City Council

Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton Forbes gave his final presentation Thursday night to a crowd of 200 at a Palm Beach Gardens City Council meeting. 

Most were not there to hear him explain how he was streamlining bus service in Palm Beach County. But as always in a presentation by Clinton Forbes, he got the crowd’s attention.

Forbes, 55, left the meeting in Palm Beach Gardens around 6:30 p.m. with two Palm Tran colleagues. He died later that night, apparently of a heart attack.

The news came as a shock, County Administrator Verdenia Baker said in a statement.

Clinton was a vibrant leader in Palm Beach County and tirelessly advocated for the betterment of our transit system,” she wrote. “His memory will serve as an inspiration to all who knew him.”

Clinton Forbes

Forbes headed Palm Beach County’s bus system since November 2015 and had more than 30 years of experience in public transportation.

County Mayor Gregg Weiss called Forbes charismatic and authentic.

He could get along equally well with mechanics and drivers as with county commissioners.

“He was always trying to do the right thing for his employees and for the community. He was just a really nice human being,” Weiss said.

Former County Commissioner Steven Abrams served as director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which runs Tri-Rail.

“I am so sad to learn of the death of Clinton Forbes, the visionary head of Palm Tran,” Abrams wrote on Facebook. ”His loss extends well beyond Palm Beach County, as he was a highly regarded regional and statewide transit leader. … He was an invaluable resource and friend, who I will miss.”

Knowing that he was in front of a crowd that came to City Hall Thursday night to discuss city annexation plans, not the county bus system, Forbes said he would shorten his presentation. 

“I do recognize, madam mayor, that you have a very aggressive agenda,” he told Palm Beach Gardens Mayor Chelsea Reed, who also heads the county’s Transportation Planning Agency. 

“So I will be brief. You will see that I will skip over several slides in recognition of brevity.”

He spoke for 17 minutes, unable to avoid explaining many slides, particularly those spelling out his plans to end an underused north-end bus route and replace it with vouchers for Uber and Lyft.

The underused route cost $1.1 million a year. The vouchers would cost less than $200,000, he said. 

“That’s not efficient. That’s not spending the taxpayers’ dollars wisely,” he said.

You can see Clinton Forbes’ final presentation at the 16-minute mark of the meeting video, here

And more on Clinton Forbes’ career here.

Author: Joel Engelhardt

Joel Engelhardt is an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor based in Palm Beach Gardens. He spent more than 40 years in the newspaper business, including 28 years at The Palm Beach Post. As a reporter, he covered countywide growth, the 2000 election and the birth of Cityplace in West Palm Beach. As an editor, he oversaw probes into the opioid scourge, private prisons, police-involved shootings and more. For seven years, he worked on the paper’s editorial board. Joel left The Post in December 2020. He and his wife, Donna, have lived together in Palm Beach Gardens since 1992.

One thought on “Palm Tran director dies shortly after presentation to Gardens City Council”

  1. I am truly saddened to hear about Clinton’s passing. He was one of the most exceptional leaders that the County ever possessed. PalmTran was transformed by his energy and professionalism. He will be extremely difficult to replace.

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