WOODSTOCK – Two finalists emerged Friday from interviews with 10 candidates to fill McHenry County’s seat on the Regional Transportation Authority Board.
A four-member McHenry County Board panel narrowed the pool to Dennis Adams of McHenry and Blake Hobson of Lakewood. Board Chairwoman Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, said she will take the weekend to ponder who should replace former GOP insider Al Jourdan, who is not seeking reappointment to another five-year term.
“They both have the credentials to represent McHenry County very well and fight for our service needs,” Hill said.
Hill said she will make her decision early next week and advance her choice for a County Board vote Dec. 3.
The 16-member RTA Board has financial oversight of the three Chicago-area mass-transit boards of Metra, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority.
All of them have come under serious scrutiny in recent years, primarily over controversy and allegations of corruption and mismanagement at Metra, but also because of resignations at the RTA Board and whether it was negligent in its handling of the most recent Metra scandal. The CTA has come under fire in recent weeks over the numerous glitches that have plagued the rollout of the new Ventra fare card system.
The four-member County Board panel – which included Vice Chairman James Heisler, R-Crystal Lake, Planning and Development Committee Chairman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, and Transportation Committee Chairwoman Anna May Miller, R-Cary – was unanimous in selecting Adams and Hobson, Hill said.
Both finalists have business and political experience. Adams, owner of Adams Collision Center in Lake in the Hills, is a former vice chairman of the McHenry County College board and a former McHenry alderman. Hobson, owner of Huntley manufacturing company Image Industries, is a former County Board member, Lakewood trustee and Nunda Township trustee.
Gottemoller said both finalists not only have the needed experience, but also the willingness and the time to serve. Adams had worked for Metra and still maintains connections with the agency, and Hobson has taken it upon himself to attend RTA meetings since earlier this year, Gottemoller said.
“Both of these guys came prepared for the party,” Gottemoller said late Friday afternoon.
Jourdan, 79, was appointed as the county’s RTA representative in 2008. He spent 30 years as McHenry County Republican Party chairman between 1968 and 1998, and about three of those years as state chairman.
Jourdan’s RTA term expired in April, but the appointment process has been delayed twice because of political turmoil at the mass-transit agencies. Hill said the new appointee will take office Jan. 1.
The appointment process gained attention several months ago when state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and state Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, publicly urged County Board members to reject reappointing Jourdan. It came in the wake of growing lawmaker outrage over a $718,000 severance package that the Metra Board granted to former CEO Alex Clifford, who alleged he was forced out because he would not turn a blind eye to political patronage hiring and contracting.
Clifford had been brought in to clean up Metra in the wake of the scandal surrounding former CEO Phil Pagano, who killed himself in 2010 by stepping in front of a Metra train just hours before the Metra Board was set to fire him for collecting at least $475,000 in unauthorized vacation payouts.
An RTA Board member receives a $25,000 salary. But a new law, drafted by Franks, eliminated the pension and insurance benefits that previously came with appointment to the four mass-transit boards.
What it means
A McHenry County Board panel on Friday narrowed down 10 candidates for the county’s seat on the Regional Transportation Authority Board to Dennis Adams of McHenry and Blake Hobson of Lakewood.
County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, will pick the candidate early next week and advance him for a County Board vote Dec. 3.
Note to Readers: This story has been changed to reflect that Dennis Adams is no longer on the McHenry County College Board of Trustees as of March 1013. The Northwest Herald regrets the error.