Appointed Federal Railway administrator in 2009, Szabo is the first head of the agency to come from the ranks of rail workers. Born in the Chicago suburb of Riverdale—home to several railroads—Szabo, 55, started working in the industry at age 18, putting in stints as yard switchman, road trainman, and commuter passenger conductor. He was among the fifth generation of his family involved in the railroad, and he followed in his father's footsteps in joining the United Transportation Union. After getting his bachelor's degree in labor relations from Governors State University in 1990, Szabo went on to serve as the Illinois state director of the union. He got involved in local politics, ultimately serving as mayor of Riverdale from 1997 to 2000 and as vice president of the Illinois AFL-CIO from 2006 to 2009. As head of the Federal Railway Administration, Szabo leads a staff of 900 employees working to ensure the safe and efficient movement of people and goods across the country. He took the reins just as the Obama administration pledged to expand the high-speed rail network, upgrade regional service, and improve connections for emerging markets. By the end of his tenure, Szabo hopes to see a robust high-speed network and a higher-performing traditional rail system. He also is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan who, in his words, "still believes."
2013 Transportation / Transportation Department
Joseph Szabo, Administrator, Federal Railway Administration
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