• Jamie Rhee
  • Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA)
Commissioner Jamie Rhee

Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee, a devoted civic leader, is responsible for managing more than 50,000 badged employees at one of the busiest airport systems in the world – Chicago O’Hare and Chicago Midway International Airports.  

Commissioner Rhee’s aviation career began as a Customer Service Foreign Language Assistant at Chicago O’Hare International Airport while attending law school at night. After working for the City of Chicago’s Planning and Development Department, she returned to the CDA as the O’Hare Modernization Program’s (OMP) General Counsel. She then served as an attorney for the City of Chicago in the Departments of Law and Planning & Development, as well as Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley, before moving on to serve as the City of Chicago’s Chief Procurement Officer (CPO).  

As Chicago’s CPO, she led reform efforts that earned national and international recognition as thousands of diverse-owned businesses were certified and entered the talent pipeline. When she returned to the CDA as Commissioner in 2018, she brought with her a profound understanding of how diversity and inclusion initiatives drive meaningful change in airport business practices and strengthen the local economy. 

Under Commissioner Rhee’s leadership, Chicago O’Hare and Midway International Airports have experienced unprecedented evolution. At O’Hare, a complete transformation is underway. Initiated in 2001 with Commissioner Rhee at the helm as OMP General Counsel, O’Hare’s airfield was transformed from an intersecting runway system into a series of parallel (east–west) runways. In 2021 with the commissioning of the Runway 9R-27L extension, she oversaw the completion of the OMP, this time as CDA Commissioner. This program has resulted in a 66% reduction in system impact delays attributable to O’Hare, and over the life of the OMP, an estimated 34,000 jobs were created. Ensuring an emphasis on equity and inclusion in OMP contracting was followed, Commissioner Rhee ensured $970 million in work—31% of the total program—was performed by minority-, disadvantaged- and/or woman-owned businesses.   

With the airfield modernized, Commissioner Rhee is now leading the way within O’Hare’s Terminals. A $1.3 billion Terminal 5 expansion project was completed in January of 2023—the largest terminal project at O’Hare in 30 years; “ElevateT3”, a modernization program for Terminal 3 was awarded the largest single competitive grant from the Federal Aviation Administration Bipartisan Infrastructure Law BIL in 2023 — a $50 million grant, followed by an additional $40 million for the project in 2024; and O’Hare’s Terminal Area Plan—a program underway which includes a new O’Hare Global Terminal to replace Terminal 2, two Satellite Concourses, with flexible gates and capacity for future growth, and a Consolidated Tunnel to serves as the backbone of O’Hare and allow for the efficient transport of passengers, baggage, and utility functions.  

At Midway, Commissioner Rhee led the completion of the Midway Modernization Program (MMP), the most comprehensive capital improvement program at the Airport in more than 20 years. In 2020, an upgrade and expansion to Midway’s passenger security checkpoint was completed—this project expanded the existing elevated passenger bridge over a busy state highway by 350 feet allowing for a new 80,000 square foot queuing area, a streamlined single checkpoint, and the capacity to double passenger throughput from 2,500 to 5,000 passengers per hour. To further enhance Midway’s travel experience, a new inline baggage handling system was constructed and improvements to the parking structure were made. The completion of the MMP was marked by the grand reopening of the Central Market in 2023, the centerpiece of a $75 million investment in Midway’s concessions. The program has one of the highest Airport Concessions DBE participation rates in the nation at 56%, demonstrating Commissioner Rhee’s commitment to growing a diverse team of business owners at the airports; and in 2024, Midway will offer its first passenger lounge that will be accessible to all passengers with a day pass or a “Priority Pass” airport lounge membership. 

One of Commissioner Rhee’s greatest professional accomplishments has been working to provide opportunities for engagement to all of Chicago’s 77 communities. With an emphasis on equity and inclusion, Commissioner Rhee has broadened the reach of certified and community-based Assist Agencies that help connect residents and businesses to opportunities at the airports. She has worked extensively with Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago to engage more young people from diverse backgrounds in aviation-related curricula, and is a sponsor of One Summer Chicago, a summer intern program that provides an “earn-as-you-learn” experience for high school students and recent graduates to shadow various CDA departments to inspire passion and interest in the field of aviation.  

A steadfast advocate for accountability in government, Commissioner Rhee and her team developed a Code of Conduct for the Chicago airport community, detailing principles, values, and standards to be upheld by everyone working for and with the CDA.  

Commissioner Rhee serves as Vice Chair of the Airports Council International– North America Executive Committee and as Board Vice Chair of the ACI-NA U.S. Policy Council, promoting cooperation between airport governing bodies. She also serves on an additional ten boards, including the international board for the American Association of Airport Executives. 

Commissioner Rhee earned her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University, and a Juris Doctor from DePaul University where she was selected for Law Review membership her first year and was later published. 

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