Chicago Mayor Richard Daley last week tapped his Buildings Department commissioner Richard L. Rodriguez to serve as Department of Aviation commissioner, a post recently vacated by Nuria Fernandez under pressure from the mayor’s administration.

Rodriguez, 37, ran the Buildings Department since June 2007, overseeing the consolidation of its functions along with the former Department of Construction and Permits at a savings of $2 million. He also worked to streamline the permit fee process and improve the inspection process. Rodri previously worked as executive director of the Construction and Permits Department. He served in previous posts in the Aviation Department and with the Chicago Housing Authority.

“Rich has proven to be a strong manager during his time at the Buildings Department and at DCAP, and I believe this type of experience and the results he has been able to generate will be a great asset to the Chicago Airport System,” Daley said in a statement. Rodriguez’s pay will be $165,000 a year.

In his post, Rodriguez will manage the operations of O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airports, although the city is currently reviewing proposals from potential bidders to enter into a long-term lease of Midway for an up-front payment.

Daley did not elaborate at a news conference on why he sought the change in leadership for the department. O’Hare ranks among the worst airports nationally for flight delays. The city also so far has failed to reach an agreement with the financially strapped airlines that operate at O’Hare on financing the second phase of the $7.5 billion runway reconfiguration and expansion at O’Hare. The $3 billion partially bond-financed first phase of construction is currently underway.

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