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Obama tabs UTU's Szabo as FRA administrator


Yesterday, President Obama announced his intention to nominate United Transportation Union (UTU) Illinois State Legislative Director Joe Szabo as Federal Railroad Administrator. The post requires Senate confirmation.

If he’s confirmed, Szabo would become the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) 13th administrator — and first from the ranks of rail labor — since the agency was founded in 1967.

A fifth-generation railroader, Szabo began his railroading career in 1976 with the Illinois Central Railroad (IC), where he worked as a yard switchman, road trainman and commuter-rail conductor. In 1987, he joined Metra when IC sold its commuter-rail division.

In 1984, Szabo was elected secretary/treasurer of UTU Local 1290. He later became a legislative representative. In 1992, he was elected vice chairperson of the Illinois State Legislative Board, and in 1996, was elected state legislative director. Szabo also has been serving as a vice president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

In addition, Szabo represented the UTU on the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee, where he participated in the drafting of rail safety regulations.

The Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO approved the nomination.

"Joe Szabo's background and work experience make him uniquely qualified for this position. Because of his first-hand knowledge of the industry, he will hit the ground running to maximize the safety of our nation's railroads for workers and the public,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind in a prepared statement. "With the Obama Administration's support for Amtrak and commitment to developing high speed and commuter rail in this country, the FRA Administrator will play an important role in ushering in a new era in passenger rail transportation.”

Meanwhile, the FRA recently named Karen Rae deputy administrator, according to the UTU.

She most recently was deputy commissioner for policy and planning of the New York State Department of Transportation, a post responsible for rail, aviation and public transportation. Rae previously served as deputy secretary for local and area transportation at the Pennsylvania DOT, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and general manager for the Austin, Texas, Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/19/2009