Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proud to represent Peoria

By Anna Yee

January 29, 2013 Updated Jan 30, 2013 at 11:34 AM CDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Some may know Ray LaHood as a Peoria native, close assistant to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, or as a U.S. Congressman.

Most Americans know him as President Obama's Secretary of Transportation.

"This is the best job I've ever had because we can really get things done," said LaHood in an exclusive interview with News 25/HOI 19 on Tuesday.

With LaHood's leadership, things did get done, improving our country's transit systems and reducing road fatalities to historic lows.

"I think our safety initiatives over the last four years have set a very high standard," said LaHood. "People know that we are no nonsense when it comes to safety."

In a statement, President Obama stated "every American who travels by air, rail, or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safer and stronger."

LaHood also helped get Americans back to work with more than $50 billion for transportation projects, especially in his hometown of Peoria.

"Everything is good for Peoria, and the Transportation Secretary brought it all on," said Tom O'Neill, Peoria County Board Chairman.

Brad McMillan, the former chief of staff for then Congressman LaHood, says LaHood never let party politics get in the way.

"The fact that Ray LaHood formed a good relationship with Democrat U.S. Senator Barack Obama and Democrat President Barack Obama is no big surprise," said McMillan. "That's just the way he operated his entire public service career."

LaHood is the only Republican still in President Obama's first-term cabinet and plans to stay until a replacement is found.

"I feel very proud of the fact that I'm the only Peorian that has ever served in this kind of position, in the cabinet of a U.S. President," said LaHood. "So, we walk out the door with our heads held high while they're still applauding."

LaHood says he does not yet know what he will do after leaving the cabinet, but he plans to spend much more time with his family in Peoria.