A second former CTA executive with decades of transit experience will soon be overseeing policy at Metra.
Cook County commissioners representing the north and west suburbs unanimously appointed retired CTA safety and security official John Plante on Wednesday to the commuter railroad's board of directors.
Plante, 68, of Wilmette, is expected to join former CTA Vice President Romayne Brown when the troubled agency's board meets Oct. 18. Together, the two have more than 65 years of experience in transit operations, safety and customer service.
The County Board is expected to confirm President Toni Preckwinkle's appointment of Brown as early as next week. Plante's selection did not require confirmation.
The appointments leave only one vacancy left after six of the 11 board members resigned or were removed in the wake of the controversy over the ouster of former CEO Alex Clifford in June and his controversial $871,000 severance package.
Plante retired from the CTA on Aug. 1 after serving in a variety of posts over a 35-year career at the transit agency. Most recently he was senior manager for system safety/emergency preparedness and coordinated the CTA's planning and training for responding to emergencies.
Before that, Plante worked as the managing attorney for the CTA's risk management, claims and law divisions. After the 9/11 attacks, Plante coordinated the CTA's security efforts.
In an interview with the Tribune, Plante said he hoped he could bring his expertise to the agency. He said he often rides Metra.
"As I was reading and watching what was going on this summer, I thought someone with a public transit background might be a good addition to the board," he said.
Acknowledging that the CTA and Metra have not always seen eye to eye on transit policy and have competed for funding, Plante said he saw no test of loyalties and hoped to foster more regional cooperation.
"Basically, my allegiance lies with the ridership, not the agency," he said. "I don't believe I have to choose between the two."
County Commissioner Larry Suffredin said Plante was the unanimous choice of the officials representing Evanston, Leyden, New Trier, Niles, Northfield, Norwood Park, Maine, Oak Park and River Forest townships.
"John has the experience and skills to ensure that Metra has what it needs to prevail over its difficulties," Suffredin said in a statement.
"His emergency preparedness work and legal background will help Metra to work through its current problems and foresee any potential future problems. He is an excellent choice," Suffredin said.
Plante was one of 14 people interested in the job who appeared before a panel of county commissioners Tuesday.
Others included retired Metra manager of schedules and service Paul Oppenheim, of Oak Park; former Winnetka Village President Jessica Tucker; and former Morton Grove Mayor Daniel Staackmann.
Plante replaces Metra board member William Widmer III of Evanston. Brown would replace Stanley Rakestraw, who resigned after the Tribune questioned his residency. Rakestraw was obligated to live in suburban Cook County but had moved to Chicago.
The last vacancy is expected to be filled soon by Cook County commissioners representing the south and southwest suburbs.
A spokesman for Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman, R-Orland Park, said the commissioners were reviewing resumes from nine applicants who appeared before them Tuesday.
The remaining vacancy was left with the resignation of former Chairman Brad O'Halloran, whom Clifford accused of seeking to oust him because he refused patronage demands, among other charges.
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