After a tempestuous four years with outgoing Chairman John S. Gates, the RTA is expected to chose a leader Wednesday with a reputation for getting along with both Democrats and Republicans.
State Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, is the likely choice of Regional Transportation Authority board members as chairman, Director Pat Durante said.
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Dillard, who is ending his Senate career after an unsuccessful bid for governor, has a likability factor and legislative experience that will be needed as the RTA fights for its very existence, officials said. A state task force recommended this spring the RTA be dissolved into a superagency consisting of Metra, Pace and the CTA. Lawmakers are studying the proposal.
"I seek the RTA chairmanship because I've known since I was a child who rode the CTA with my parents and grandparents the importance of mass transit to the Chicago region," Dillard said Tuesday. He added that he takes Metra to work at his law firm in Chicago.
"I've been a Metra rider since law school. It's important that the RTA chairman be a user of the system ... so that when there are service delays and problems, I face them firsthand. I guarantee users of the RTA system that my blood boils just like their blood boils and I ask questions out loud when things aren't going well."
Dillard's "got friends on both sides of the aisle," said Durante, an RTA director from Addison. "He's coming to the RTA from the outside and with his legislative knowledge it will be a big help. Maybe Springfield will stop blaming everything that happens on the RTA."
Asked about the recommendations to eliminate the RTA, Dillard said, "I welcome all challenges. I'm not sure that governance is really the problem. It's about transparency, consensus, vision and having the capital money needed to keep our system first-rate.
"I'm a consensus person, I certainly look forward to working with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and all the appointing authorities and the congressional delegation to make sure there's capital funding in these very difficult times."
Although the RTA chairman is chosen by board members, other political forces are involved. These include the elected officials who appoint RTA directors -- the collar county chairmen, the mayor of Chicago, and the Cook County president and commissioners.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who defeated Dillard in the primary, also was said to be involved in the process, first backing former DuPage County Chairman Bob Schillerstrom and later RTA Director Dwight Magalis. Rauner has not commented on the issue.
Gates' last meeting is Wednesday. Although he just served four years, Gates made a mark as chairman, including criticizing what he called inefficiencies at Metra, Pace and the CTA, which resulted in pushback from those agencies.
The agency also weathered an investigation into inappropriate racial remarks and sexual harassment by top administrators.