(My story from TRAINS magazine News Wire) Former Metra Chairman Martin Oberman, who was credited with helping restore public confidence in Chicago’s commuter rail agency after scandal and controversy, departed the board of directors Wednesday.
Oberman, 72, an attorney who built a reputation as a reformer while an alderman on Chicago’s City Council, was named to Metra’s board by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in September 2013. He was elected chairman in 2014, serving until last October when Norman Carlson took the post.
Oberman tells Trains News Wire that he and Emanuel recently discussed his tenure and decided it was time to leave the board.
“He wanted me to focus on other areas,” Oberman says. “Nothing’s been spelled out yet.”
Metra has an 11-member board of directors appointed by the chairmen of the six Northeastern Illinois county boards, Cook County commissioners, and Chicago’s mayor.
Oberman said two key accomplishments that occurred during his term were helping to professionalize Metra and remove political patronage, and putting the agency on a more secure financial footing.
He refused to take personal credit.
“One person can’t do it,” Oberman says. “Whatever I was able to do required the support of the board and working with the executive director.”
Metra CEO Don Orseno will be leaving the agency this fall after serving more than 30 years in various posts.
Oberman took over at Metra after the agency came under fire for ousting former Executive Director Alex Clifford, who became embroiled in a dispute with some board members over political interference. Clifford had been hired to reform the agency after the suicide of Phil Pagano, who had been accused of financial impropriety.