A graduate of The University of Michigan and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Hillegonds was chief of staff to Upper Peninsula U.S. Congressman Phillip Ruppe in the 1970's. From 1979 to 1996, he represented a West Michigan district in the Michigan House of Representatives, where he also served as Republican Leader, Co-Speaker and Speaker of the House. In 1997, he became CEO of Detroit Renaissance, a policy and economic development organization of Southeast Michigan corporate CEO's. From 2005 until his retirement in 2014, he was the Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at DTE Energy. In March, 2015, Hillegonds was appointed president of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, which focuses on health and wellness grant making to nonprofit organizations serving children and senior citizens. He serves on the boards of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan, Kresge Foundation, Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, New Detroit, The Center for Michigan and Michigan Future.
Honors include: Governing Magazine Public Official of the Year (1994); Detroit News Michiganian of the Year (1997); Metropolitan Affairs Coalition/Detroit Free Press Regional Shining Light Award (2011).
Hillegonds and his wife Nancy are the parents of two children, Sarah and Michael, and reside in Plymouth.
Chief Executive Officer
Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan
Michael Ford is Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan. Michael is responsible for carrying out the Authority’s mission; for the planning, coordination, development and operations of all RTA efficient local and regional services; as well as passing a referendum in 2016.
Michael consults and collaborates with leadership from government entities, stakeholder and community partners. Michael has more than 30 years experience with leadership roles in both public and private transportation. Michael holds a BA in Sociology and Philosophy from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, and an MBA from City University in Seattle, Washington. Prior to coming to the RTA, Michael was the CEO at the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.
In the past year Michael led a governance change which resulted in the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority expanding from one jurisdiction (City of Ann Arbor) to three (adding the City of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township). Under his leadership at the AAATA fixed-route bus service was expanded yielding record ridership and national recognition, a successful van pool program was launched, an airport shuttle program was created through a public-private partnership, and he oversaw the completion of the new LEED gold certified Blake Transit Center. In early May 2014, voters in the three jurisdictions approved a millage to expand transportation in the greater Ann Arbor area by a 3-1 vote.
Michael was raised in Seattle, Washington and now lives in the city of Detroit, Michigan. Michael has previously served on many boards in Portland, Oregon where he was the Director of Transportation Operations for TriMet, the Portland area transportation service. He has also authored books to help the refugee and immigrant populations, many of which are in a variety of languages to help provide access to vital services. Michael has served in leadership roles on several boards of international, national and local organizations. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, the Business Development Committee for Ann Arbor SPARK, and three national panels for the Transportation Cooperative Research Program; serving in a leadership role on at least one of the panels.
Michael’s passions are cycling, working out, world travel, and jazz music.