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Former Green Beret to lead the charge on Mayor Emanuel’s Infrastructure Trust

Mayor Rahm Emanuel addresses City Council before vote Chicago Infrastructure Trust ordinance Tuesday April 24 2012 City Hall Chicago. |

Mayor Rahm Emanuel addresses the City Council before a vote on the Chicago Infrastructure Trust ordinance Tuesday, April 24, 2012, at City Hall in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 4, 2013 6:40AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has described his Infrastructure Trust as a revolutionary change that will allow private investors to pump $1.7 billion into “transformative” infrastructure projects the city could not afford to build on its own.

Now, a former Green Beret has been chosen to lead the revolution.

The five-member board overseeing the trust has hired retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel-turned-venture capitalist Stephen Beitler to serve as its $170,000-a-year executive director.

Beitler, 56, lives in Highland Park. He is no relation to Chicago developer J. Paul Beitler. Stephen Beitler is a founder and managing director of Dunrath Capital, a venture capital firm specializing in infrastructure security and defense companies.

Before founding Dunrath, Beitler served as managing director and general partner of Trident Capital. He has also held high-ranking jobs at Sears and Helene Curtis. His military career included time spent as a Green Beret, in Intelligence and other Special Forces and as the chief of staff to the Under Secretary of Defense focusing on military procurement.

“He was involved in a lot of covert operations. He’s really not comfortable talking about his military service because so much of it is classified,” said Tracey Mendrek, a spokeswoman for the trust.

Beitler was chosen after a nationwide search by the recruiting firm Spencer Stuart. He has a contract but with no specific duration.

Beitler could not be reached for comment.

In a press release announcing the appointment, he was quoted as calling the trust a “perfect opportunity to meld human and physical infrastructure to achieve Mayor Emanuel’s goal of making Chicago a truly global city.”

Beitler said he looked forward to working with business, government and the board to “build up the infrastructure of our great city.”

Trust Chairman James Bell was quoted as saying Beitler’s “experience, financial savvy and deep understanding of the start-up and private funding world” made him an “ideal leader” to get the trust off the ground.

Brushing aside bitter memories of the parking meter deal and fears of user fees to guarantee investment returns, the City Council voted last spring to tap private investment for public infrastructure projects.

The 41-to-7 vote came after the mayor’s forces buried a pair of alternative ordinances that would have required City Council approval of all trust-funded projects and empowered Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate the trust, among other safeguards.

The money is expected to come from five financing giants, the largest chunk from the Spanish-Australian consortium that paid $1.83 billion to lease the Chicago Skyway for 99 years in exchange for pocketing tolls and continuing to raise them.

The trust will launch with $200 million in energy efficiency projects for government buildings — including converting water pumping stations from steam power to electricity — that are expected to generate a 20 percent energy savings that will be used to repay investors. A request-for-qualifications for that project is already on the street.

City Hall has repeatedly refused to discuss what other projects the city wants to finance or what user fees would have to be imposed to make certain investors get their money back with interest.

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