Lynch picks former commissioner to take over DOT

Less than 24 hours after announcing the resignation of Transportation Commissioner Carol Murray, Governor Lynch announced her immediate successor – a man very familiar with the job.

Lynch announced Tuesday that he will nominate Charles O’Leary, who served as transportation commissioner from 1990 to 1996 under Govs. Judd Gregg and Steve Merrill to fill Murray’s unexpired term, which ends Dec. 3. Lynch received Murray’s resignation late Monday afternoon. Her resignation is effective March 1.

“There are immediate financial and management challenges that need to be addressed at the department,” the governor said. “Chuck O’Leary has the knowledge of the department and a proven record as an administrator making him the right choice to lead the agency over the next several months.”

As DOT commissioner in the ‘90s, O’Leary was not afraid to speak his mind. He was perhaps best known for working hard to promote the need for investment in the state’s highway and bridge infrastructure – at one point suggesting that the best way to drive over one North Country bridge that was in particularly dire need of repair was to drive quickly across it and “don’t look back.” His assessment drew criticism in some quarters, but in others was praised as the kind of wake-up call the state needed in coming to grips with the needs of its transportation infrastructure.

He also was skeptical about reviving rail, or at least reviving a passenger train between Portland, Maine, and Boston – the current-day Downeaster.

At one point, he called the Amtrak plan a “political statement” and questioned the economic worth of the project.

After leaving the state DOT, O’Leary became president and partner of Northeast Concrete Products, based in Plainview, Mass., a position he held until retiring in December 2004.

Lynch also announced Tuesday that he will soon begin the process of finding a permanent commissioner for the department. – JEFF FEINGOLD

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