Tollway chooses Choose DuPage chief
With Gov. Bruce Rauner's leadership redo of the Illinois tollway almost complete, what's next for the agency?
Board directors on Thursday unanimously approved hiring economic development professional Greg Bedalov, president and CEO of Choose DuPage, as executive director.
Bedalov, a 50-year-old Downers Grove executive, is Rauner's pick, as is Chairman Bob Schillerstrom, who has said transportation and jobs go hand-in-hand.
"I'm excited to be part of the team," Bedalov said after the vote. "At this point there's lot of stuff to learn and lots of opportunities."
Schillerstrom called Bedalov a "very talented individual" and an expert in economic development. "Economic development is very important to the state, very important to the tollway and very important to the governor," he said. "Greg will help the tollway be an agent of change."
The tollway is already in the midst of a $12 billion building boom but more could come.
Choose DuPage is a public-private group that works to attract businesses to DuPage County and promote jobs along with economic growth.
Before Choose DuPage, Bedalov was president of the Downers Grove Economic Development Corp. and director of global business development and marketing for Pulsafeeder, a manufacturer of pumps and fluid meter technologies.
He has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His salary will be $180,000.
The board is expected to make a crucial decision this year on whether to adopt an extension of Route 53 north into Lake County. A proposal endorsed by Lake County leaders would build a four-lane, 45 mph parkway with environmental features up to Route 120.
But a nearly $2 billion gap exists that some fear would require a systemwide toll increase to fill.
Illustrating the tough decision ahead was Sierra Club member Barbara Klipp who told directors "the best environmental position is to not build the road."
As Rauner's team moves in, there's been an exodus of leaders from former Gov. Pat Quinn's era.
Chairman Paula Wolff and Executive Director Kristi Lafleur both announced their departures in June. Lafleur was asked to stay at the tollway in the interim to help with transition.
Rauner in May replaced four directors with Schillerstrom, Lake County Board Member Nick Sauer, banker Joseph Gomez and Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson. He still has to pick one more director.
But the new regime in some ways reflects the goals of the outgoing one. LaFleur was a former deputy chief of economic development under Quinn and the agency's building program was tied to job creation.