04.27.2024 | News Release

SANDAG Board Appoints Mario Orso as Chief Executive Officer 


After a nationwide search, the SANDAG Board of Directors announced Friday that it has appointed Mario Orso, the current Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 11, as the new SANDAG Chief Executive Officer (CEO). 
“Our Board made a commitment to select a proven leader with decades of experience to prioritize our community's needs, and today, I am proud to announce that we have fulfilled that commitment," said SANDAG and San Diego County Supervisor Chairwoman Nora Vargas. “Mr. Orso is dedicated to the people of this region and has demonstrated his commitment by successfully building teams, delivering major infrastructure projects, and bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the San Diego region. He embodies the qualities we were searching for in a leader and I am confident we have found a CEO who will be forward thinking, collaborative, and fiscally responsible.”

As Chief Executive Officer, Orso will be responsible for leading more than 400 SANDAG employees, will oversee a $1.2 billion annual budget, and will report directly to the Board of Directors, which is made up of elected mayors, councilmembers, and county supervisors who are appointed from each of the region’s 19 local governments. He will begin his three-year contract with the agency on June 17, 2024.   

“As a resident of this region, I am honored to have the opportunity to lead SANDAG. In partnership with the Board, we will be laser focused on our core mission and commitments to the people of the San Diego region,” said Orso. “With more than 200 projects underway, our partnerships are going to be more important than ever to make the most of our investments to improve mobility, equity, safety, and our economy.”
Orso has more than 32 years of experience at Caltrans, having worked his way through the ranks from a junior civil engineer to his current appointment after earning his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from San Diego State University. Orso holds a Professional Engineers Registration and has completed the Project Management Certificate Program that Caltrans and Sacramento State University offer. Along the way he made his mark in District 11, currently as Chief Deputy Director, and he previously served as Corridor Project Director for the South County and Trade Corridors, the district's first Native American Liaison, and Intergovernmental Review Branch Chief and Project Manager. Additionally, in 2023, Orso was appointed Acting Caltrans District 12 Director in Orange County.