A Conversation with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood by Chicago Amplified published on 2013-01-14T00:06:51Z The 2012 UIC Urban Forum is an annual gathering of the various and diverse communities who work together in pursuit of enhancing the urban condition. With approximately 80 percent of Americans living in urban areas and producing approximately 85 percent of GDP, cities are the backbone of the nation’s economic vitality and have been challenged by the Great Recession unlike any time in the post-War era. This is the closing conversation of the 2012 UIC Urban Forum. The discussion is facilitated by Steve Schlickman, Executive Director of the UIC Urban Transportation Center. Ray H. LaHood became the 16th Secretary of Transportation on January 23, 2009. In nominating him, President-elect Obama said, “Few understand our infrastructure challenge better than the outstanding public servant that I’m asking to lead the Department of Transportation.” Secretary LaHood’s primary goals in implementing President Obama’s priorities for transportation include safety across all modes, restoring economic health and creating jobs, sustainability—shaping the economy of the coming decades by building new transportation infrastructure, and assuring that transportation policies focus on people who use the transportation system and their communities. As Secretary of Transportation, LaHood leads an agency with more than 55,000 employees and a $70 billion budget that oversees air, maritime and surface transportation missions. Secretary LaHood said he would bring President-elect Obama’s priorities to the Department and see them effectively implemented with a commitment to fairness across regional lines, across party lines and between people who come to the issues with different perspectives. Before becoming Secretary of Transportation, LaHood served for 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives from the 18th District of Illinois (from 1995-2009). During that time he served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and, after that, on the House Appropriations Committee. Prior to his election to the House, he served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Congressman Robert Michel, whom he succeeded in representing the 18th District, and as District Administrative Assistant to Congressman Thomas Railsback. He also served in the Illinois State Legislature. Before his career in government, Secretary LaHood was a high school teacher, having received his degree from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. He was also director of the Rock Island County Youth Services Bureau and Chief planner for the Bi-States Metropolitan Planning Commission in Illinois. LaHood and his wife, Kathy, have four children (Darin, Amy, Sam, and Sara) and nine grandchildren.