New tollway chief comes from Chicago Housing Authority

 
 
Updated 4/22/2019 2:29 PM
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  • Jose R. Alvarez

    Jose R. Alvarez

  • Jose R. Alvarez, chief operating officer at the Chicago Housing Authority, was hired Thursday as the new director of the state tollway authority, which is headquartered in Downers Grove.

    Jose R. Alvarez, chief operating officer at the Chicago Housing Authority, was hired Thursday as the new director of the state tollway authority, which is headquartered in Downers Grove. Daily Herald file photo, 2018

Editor's note: An earlier headline described the title of the new head of the Illinois tollway incorrectly. Jose R. Alvarez’ correct title at the tollway is executive director.

Illinois tollway directors chose a new executive director Thursday with a background in management at the Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago Public Schools.

Jose R. Alvarez is chief operating officer at the CHA and previously worked in leadership roles at CPS. His salary and starting date have not been determined.

"He's been there and done it," tollway Chairman Will Evans said. "He's got experience running a large agency; the CHA is, I think, the second-largest housing authority in the United States.

"You've got a large organization that he's been used to managing, he made a lot of changes and it's really a great team member that's going to join us."

Alvarez said he was "looking forward to the challenge of leading a world-class toll highway system at a time when our infrastructure is at the forefront of our state's agenda."

"We must continue to find new ways to help drive economic opportunity for all Illinoisans, and the Illinois tollway plays a pivotal role in that effort," he said.

Alvarez's hiring comes with the backing of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat who on Feb. 28 replaced the entire tollway board in the wake of concerns about cronyism. Usually, governors let tollway directors finish out their terms.

Alvarez replaces former Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman, an influential Republican, who was picked with support from former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner in February 2018. Gorman exited March 15 this year.

Gorman's salary was $215,000 a year.

The Illinois Senate held a hearing in July into procurement irregularities at the tollway after the Daily Herald reported on contracts or hiring involving politically connected individuals or relatives of officials.

These included the tollway board's awarding a $157 million contract to a company that employed the adult children of executives, recruiting GOP insiders for high-paying positions, approving a $6 million contract with a politically connected PR firm, spending thousands of dollars to send staff members to banquets where tollway leaders were speakers.

Pritzker pledged to clean up the agency.

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