Acting Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker today gets to drop the word “acting” from his title. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy named him as his commissioner this morning, describing Redeker’s five months as interim chief as one long job interview.
Malloy, who named Redeker as acting commissioner in March after the retirement of a predecessor, Jeffrey Parker, announced a national search for a transportation commissioner after taking office in January, saying he wanted someone to help speed the Department of Transportation’s embrace of mass transit and alternative transportation.
“It turns out that right person was here in our own backyard,” Malloy said. “Over the last five months, I’ve been impressed with Jim’s competence, his vision, his expertise, his ability to manage the department during periods of great uncertainty due to the budget negoations and the ratification issues.”
Redker, 57, a senior New Jersey transit official, came to Connecticut more than two years ago to oversee public transit operations at the DOT, which was undergoing a transition begun at the end of the administration of Gov. M. Jodi Rell to shed its identity as mainly a highway department.
“It is an extraordinary privilege to be asked and appointed to this position,” Redeker said. “My career has spanned many, many years, but the last 2½ in Connecticut at the Department of Transportation have been far and away the best.”
Redeker is taking over at a potential critical time for the DOT. It is unclear if Congress will renew the federal gasoline tax this fall, raising questions about continued federal funding of interstate highway infrastructure — and possibly making tolls an issue the Malloy Administration will have to address.
Malloy cut off quesions of Redeker about any predisposition he might have toward tolls, making it clear that was a policy question for the governor’s office.
“Any predisposition he has will be discussed with me in the future,” Malloy said.
But the governor then acknowledged that he and Redeker already have had discussions about tolls, which are under study as a means of partially financing the completion of Route 11 in eastern Connecticut.
By retaining Redeker, Malloy is a keeping an executive with a specialty in mass transit, and he also is bringing some stability to a major state department that has had three commissioners in less than two years.
“I plan to be here a long time,” Redeker said, smiling. “My last job was 30 years. I plan to stay as long as it takes to accomplish great things here.”
As transit chief and interim commissioner, Redeker generally has won praise from advocates of mass transit and alternative transportation, including the non-profit groups that have been pushing the DOT to speed up work on the state’s growing network of multi-use trails.
Malloy acknowledged in May he had developed a solid relationship with Redeker, saying it was possible he would get the permanent job.
“I’ve been very comfortable in my working relationship” with Redeker, Malloy said months ago after a speech in Southington. “In acknowledging that, I’m not trying to push this one way or another. I’m not there yet.”
Today, Malloy acknowleged he gave up on a national search at about that time. The delay in making the appointment permanent, he said, was due to more to the distractions or a budget crisis and the prolonged effort to win ratification of a employee concession package.
Had he not been appointed today as commissioner, Malloy said Redeker would have retained his job as chief of the DOT’s Bureau of Public Transportation, responsible for rail and bus programs that carry more than 35 million passengers a year.
He came to the DOT in 2008 after a 30-year career with the New Jersey DOT and New Jersey Transit, the third-largest transit agency in the nation.