Metra picks James Derwinski as new chief

 
 
Updated 8/16/2017 5:49 PM
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  • Metra directors chose James M. Derwinski to take over for outgoing CEO Don Orseno when he retires in December.

    Metra directors chose James M. Derwinski to take over for outgoing CEO Don Orseno when he retires in December.

Metra directors chose a veteran employee to head the agency Wednesday.

The railroad's chief mechanical officer, James M. Derwinski, 49, will take over from outgoing CEO Don Orseno when he retires in December.

Derwinski is currently in charge of 650 employees who repair, clean and maintain the agency's fleet of railcars and locomotives.

Derwinski also oversees a railcar and locomotive rehab program and installation of an automatic braking system.

"In Jim Derwinski we have an inspirational leader, well known for his effective communications and ability to develop people, thus earning him great respect within Metra. Using his intelligence and skills, Jim has developed processes and procedures that make efficient use of taxpayer dollars," Chairman Norm Carlson said in a statement.

Derwinski will be paid an annual salary of $275,000.

He served in the U.S. Navy as an electrician with nuclear submarines, and was a locomotive electrician with a freight railroad before joining Metra in 1997. He held a number of positions before being appointed as chief mechanical officer in 2013.

Orseno was chosen as acting executive director in August 2013 as the agency sought to move past corruption and political scandals. The appointment was made permanent in early 2014.

Under Orseno's tenure, the agency has grappled with other challenges, including a $12 billion capital shortfall, service meltdowns, rebuilding the police department and positive train control. The agency also has taken some heat from riders on fare increases.

Orseno said the biggest future challenge for the railroad is insufficient money for new equipment and infrastructure repairs. "Our needs far outweigh our capital resources and that's not getting any better," he said previously.

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