Thomas H. Powers

Commissioner, Chicago Department of Water Management

Thomas H. Powers, P.E., is a Midwest native who has worked in the public sector throughout his career. He earned a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Iowa State University before taking his master’s degree from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

Powers joined the Chicago Department of Transportation in 1996 and then managed its capital improvement program. His portfolio included bridge reconstruction, roadway reconstruction, traffic signals and engineering, alley repairs, and bridge emergency repairs.

By 2005, he had been promoted to first deputy commissioner/chief engineer. In a department of more than 1,200 employees, Powers assumed responsibility for the overall management of operations, planning, and productivity.

In 2009, Powers was named acting commissioner of transportation. He distinguished himself by saving millions of dollars via the reorganization of systems and resources. He also managed more than $600 million annually in federal and state transportation grants.

In 2010, Powers was appointed to his current position, commissioner of water management. In this role, he purifies and delivers drinking water to the City of Chicago and 125 suburban communities. He also manages an aging infrastructure that includes more than 4,300 miles of water main and 4,400 miles of sewers.

Powers has been effective in saving millions of dollars through smart scheduling and thoughtful deployment of human and material resources.

With Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Powers is launching the most ambitious renewal ever of Chicago’s water infrastructure: More than 1,000 miles of water main and 750 miles of sewer main will be replaced or lined in the next decade. The world’s two largest conventional water treatment plants will be kept current with advances in the science of water treatment, and four pumping stations that have run on steam power will be converted to electrical systems at great savings to rate payers.

Powers and his wife, Jane, have three daughters. He supports charities by giving tours of bridges along the Chicago River.

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