Blaylock, executive director since 2002, ceremonially transferred leadership to Ford during the authority's board of directors meeting by banging a gavel and boisterously and formally introducing his
successor before a standing-room-only audience.
Blaylock thanked the board and JTA staff and advocated for the authority to continue pushing toward a master transportation plan that incorporates regionalism.
He called the plan and an ongoing study to incorporate it as a "guiding light" toward the area's success.
"It's going to happen. We're going to see growth in Northeast Florida," he said.
He stressed the authority should not diminish its transportation role. "Do not allow anyone to reduce your mission," he said.
The board subsequently approved a resolution commending members of the Northeast Florida Regional Transportation Study Commission and endorsed its recommendations.
The commission was established by legislation in 2010 to explore the framework of a regional transportation authority.
Ford, 51, was unanimously selected by the board Oct. 10 to become the authority's executive director.
A national search began after Blaylock announced in March he would retire in September. The search attracted more than 100 candidates.
Ford has served as a transportation leader in Atlanta and San Francisco, which have two of the nation's busiest transportation agencies.
He said Thursday he has been in Jacksonville for several weeks to meet staff before taking the role Monday. He told the board he looked forward to presenting his first executive director's report in January.
Blaylock's original contract was set to expire in 2014 but the board amended it when Blaylock announced his retirement after 35 years of service. The announcement came on the heels of a media investigation into JTA bus drivers' criminal and driving records that JTA board Chair Ed Burr called "an embarrassment."
Burr on Thursday praised Blaylock's service and tenure and concluded the meeting by saying he is "comfortable about our future and proud of our past."
Nathaniel Ford began his role Monday as executive director of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the transition from outgoing Executive Director Michael Blaylock was completed Thursday.