Former independent Chicago Ald. Martin Oberman was unanimously selected Tuesday to serve as Metra’s chairman — the first Chicagoan tapped for the spot in Metra’s 30-year history.
Oberman, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pick to replace to a board member Emanuel forced out, topped two suburban candidates for the post.
A big Oberman supporter was McHenry County board member Jack Schaffer, who said Oberman brought the right “skill set ... independence and integrity” to lead Metra through any “storm.”
Though a collar-county Republican, Schaffer said, “I am very proud and confident voting for a Chicago liberal Democrat.’’
Oberman will serve out the term of former Metra chairman Brad O’Halloran until fall 2016. O’Halloran resigned after the tumult over the $871,000 buyout of former Metra CEO Alex Clifford that O’Halloran had encouraged.
Emanuel appointed Oberman to fill Chicago’s only seat on the Metra board after forcing the resignation of board member Larry Huggins, who had become embroiled in the Metra patronage scandal. At an event at Wells High School on Tuesday morning, Emanuel was clearly happy about Oberman’s selection as chairman.
“They see in Marty Oberman what I saw when I decided to nominate him: A person committed to public service, committed to the task ahead of him and bringing a vision of how to modernize something that will help serve the overall regional economy, which Chicago is the center of,” the mayor said.
“I’m accountable as mayor for the CTA, ...” Emanuel said. “But having a modern transportation system also includes one that allows people in the city to get to jobs in the suburbs and people in the suburbs to get to jobs here in the city. Metra is integral to that. Having a coordinated strategy between CTA and Metra is key to that.”
Contributing: Fran Spielman