President Obama's presumptive nominee to be the next secretary of transportation, Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx, appears to have scant transportation experience. Maybe that's the point.
Reports have circulated since Sunday night that Mayor Foxx, a Democrat who turns 42 tomorrow, would succeed Ray LaHood as the next DOT secretary if confirmed by the Senate. As of mid-day today, however, there had been no announcement on the White House website.
In a statement released today, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, praised Foxx's nomination. However, his statement was silent on the mayor's transportation background or qualifications.
In a separate statement, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, lauded Foxx's "strong advocacy" of his so-called 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan, an investment in the Charlotte region's passenger transportation network.
An industry source said Charlotte has been aggressive in expanding its transportation system because it serves as a catalyst to attract commerce to the city and region. The source said Mayor Foxx has followed in the footsteps of current North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who served as Charlotte's mayor for a record 14 years and launched many of the local transportation programs that Mayor Foxx inherited.
It likely didn't hurt Mayor Foxx's cause that Charlotte hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where President Obama was chosen to be the party's candidate.
It has not always been a requirement for DOT secretaries to come to the job with much transportation experience. In 1983, President Reagan nominated Elizabeth Hanford Dole to be transportation secretary, a move that at the time was thought to be the White House's reward to her husband, then Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), for helping shepherd some of Reagan's legislative initiatives through Congress. Andrew H. Card Jr., named by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, had virtually no transportation background when he took the job. Federico F. PeÃ±a, who was governor of Colorado, advised then-Governor Bill Clinton on transportation issues during Clinton's first presidential transition and was named the Clinton administration's first transportation secretary.
By contrast, past DOT secretaries such as LaHood, Rodney Slater, Norman Y. Mineta, Mary Peters, and James H Burnley IV all had a fair amount of transportation experience either at the federal or state legislative levels, or within the administrative hierarchy of government.