LaHood won't wait long for a call

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It was great seeing U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Warehouse District on Friday. After all, his considerable "pull" in Washington helped garner the $10 million federal TIGER II grant that will be used to helped develop the Warehouse District in his native Peoria.

So what if that wasn't his reason for coming home from Washington this weekend? He actually came to watch yours truly portray Richard Nixon in the Corn Stock Theatre production of "Frost/Nixon," which opens this weekend.

Just kidding. I'M KIDDING!  (I invited him to come see the show, but I really kinda doubt that will happen.)

LaHood actually came home to attend the baptism of his newest grandchild, born recently to Sam and Katie LaHood. It's his 10th grandchild and I would venture to guess he was at the baptism of each of the older nine. That's the kind of person he is.

It wasn't surprising that we in the local media practically jumped him after the ground breaking to ask about Washington doings; more specifically, how much longer will he be hanging out at the Department of Transportation.

His answer was simple: He doesn't know. President Obama hasn't yet named a successor to fill LaHood's job, even though he has named other new cabinet members in recent weeks.

"I have talked with the president about the type of person he would like to take over. In fact, we talked about it just a couple days ago. I just want to make sure he is able to find somebody who has a clear understanding of the president's vision," LaHood told us.

That is something LaHood has had since the day he took the transportation job at the start of Obama's first term. That vision was to make our roads better and safer, our vehicles better and safer. Sure, it goes a little deeper than that but that is the basic task of a transportation secretary and LaHood has fulfilled it well. But he also has, with his boss's blessing, been tough when he needed to be and has not been tainted while doing so.

In my book, there's little wonder President Obama isn't rushing to replace LaHood. Other cabinet members wanted out; LaHood said he'd stay until a successor was picked, however long it took. Considering how successful this cabinet pick has been for the president, the only Republican serving in the Democrat administration, why hurry?

LaHood, as he has been since he first announced a few weeks ago he'd be stepping down, said he has nothing lined up to go to but hopes his phone will start ringing shortly after he closes his Department of Transportation door for the last time.

Given the respect he has gained through his years in Washington — first as chief of staff to former Congressman Bob Michel, then as 17th District Congressman himself before joining Obama's cabinet — I think there is little question about that.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).