Sean Connaughton, a former head of the U.S. Maritime Administration who until January served as Virginia Secretary of Transportation under former Gov. Bob McDonnell, was appointed last month to be the next president of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.
Connaughton is technically president/CEO-designate during a transition period before he takes over from Laurens Sartoris, who is retiring after 38 years with the trade association, spokeswoman Sheila Gray said.
No official date has been set for when he assumes full responsibility, she said.
Before becoming Virginia's transportation secretary, Connaughton spent a year as vice president of the American Bureau of Shipping classification society.
A graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Connaughton was a Coast Guard officer and spent 19 years in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He has a law degree from George Mason University and spent several years in private practice, with a focus on admiralty law. He also worked for four years as a senior transportation analyst at the American Petroleum Institute.
His move to the health care field after so many years in transportation comes as a surprise to former colleagues and associates.
Connaughton also served as a Republican between 2000 and 2006 as chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Republicans in the Virginia state legislature oppose Gov. Terry McAuliffe's attempt to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as "Obamacare," and the disagreement has led to a showdown over the state budget. The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association supports Medicaid expansion.
Connaughton, however, is credited a a tough political operator who last year was instrumental in helping push a landmark, multi-year transportation funding bill that raises an additional $3.5 billion through 2018 by replacing the gas tax with sales taxes and other fees dedicated to transportation.