A background as a transportation planner and hands-on experience as a commuter on Metra's BNSF Line will help him "be part of the solution" on the troubled Metra board, new DuPage County appointee John Zediker said.
DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin Friday named the Naperville resident as his pick for Metra director, which brings the board's numbers from a bare quorum of six to a more stable seven. Four seats remain open.
Zediker's appointment must be confirmed by the DuPage County Board. A vote is expected Tuesday.
"There are challenges that lie ahead and I think the ridership deserves the best agency it can be," Zediker said.
Two state inspector generals are investigating accusations of misconduct at Metra and a number of officials have called for the entire board to step down.
Zediker, a Republican, is the chief operating officer and a partner at the real estate consulting firm of Ruettiger, Tonelli and Associates. He has master's degrees in economic geography and in business administration.
"I feel very fortunate to be chosen and want to use my time and talents to be part of the solution," he said.
Metra has been embroiled in controversy since spring, when former CEO Alex Clifford issued a memo to the board accusing two top directors who've since resigned of conspiring to oust him because he rejected political pressure over jobs from lawmakers.
The board in June approved a much-criticized separation agreement with Clifford that could cost more than $718,000, not including more than $300,000 in related expenses for legal and PR consultants.
Cronin's earlier appointee, Elmhurst businessman Paul Darley, resigned weeks ago.
Zediker "has a clear understanding of transportation systems and the need for cohesiveness to ensure public safety and ease of travel," Cronin said in a statement.
Several times a month, Zediker takes the BNSF Line to Chicago on business. The route has been plagued by delays recently but Zediker says he's "one of the lucky ones" for missing some of the worst disruptions of the summer.
"I have many friends and colleagues who take the train every day, so I hear the stories when a storm or accident disrupt the system -- I'm well aware of the challenges commuters face," he said.
Zediker said he wanted to "immerse himself" in Metra before commenting specifically on policy. But as a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, Zediker said he's got an appreciation for issues such as population growth, the connection between job centers and transit, and "the challenges municipalities face and we face with competing interests and limited dollars."
Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn has convened a task force to review public transit agencies in the region with the possible outcome of changing the structure of the Metra board, CTA, Regional Transportation Authority and Pace.
With Zediker's confirmation, two Naperville residents will be on the Metra board. Acting Chairman Jack Partelow also is from Naperville.
Metra directors are paid $15,000 a year. Zediker said he intends to donate his stipend to charity.
He will eventually be entitled to an Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund pension through various government positions he's held. As a result of a 2013 state law, Metra directors do not receive a pension or benefits.
Zediker, 41, is the former president of Moser Enterprises, an influential Naperville development firm that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 as a result of the economic downturn.
He served as DuPage County Board commissioner from 2009 to 2012 and was director of Naperville's Transportation, Engineering and Development Department from 2001 to 2002. He also worked as a planner for DeKalb County.