President Obama has named Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to succeed Ray LaHood as secretary of transportation.
Foxx must now be confirmed by the Senate before taking his post.
LaHood, who has served as transportation secretary since 2009, announced in late January that he would resign his post as soon as a successor was confirmed. In a letter to DOT employees at the time, LaHood noted his successes over the previous four years. The contentious pilot fatigue ruling — which, when first announced, exempted cargo pilots from adhering to the new guidelines — the recent FAA reauthorization bill, progress with aviation’s NextGen program and the distribution of $3.1 billion in TIGER grants all topped his list of accomplishments.
One of the most recent developments LaHood oversaw was the development of a freight advisory panel, a 25-member group tasked with developing a national intermodal plan.
“From the day that he was sworn in, Ray has fought tirelessly to improve America’s infrastructure, creating good jobs and strengthening the economy, and allowing us to better compete in the global economy,” Obama said during the press conference.
Calling Foxx “one of the most effective mayors that Charlotte has ever seen,” Obama touted the Charlotte mayor’s hard work taking the city through the economic crisis and turning it around. Foxx saw Charlotte through a number of transportation investments including a streetcar project, a bid to expand the airport, and the current undertaking of extending a light rail system.
Relationships are important in this job, Obama added, and that’s something he learned from LaHood over the years.
“I know Anthony's transportation experience will make him an outstanding transportation secretary,” Obama said. “He has the respect of his peers – mayors and governors across the country – and as a consequence, I think he’s going to be extraordinarily effective.”
Pledging to follow up on the policies and strategies championed by LaHood, Foxx said creating a lasting transportation infrastructure is a task that goes beyond party lines.
“There is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican road, bridge, port, airfield or rail system,” Foxx said during brief comments at the White House. “We must work together across party lines to enhance this nation’s infrastructure.”
In 2009, Foxx became the youngest mayor in Charlotte’s history, being elected to the office at 38. Transportation isn’t noted among his key initiatives on his Website, as he has instead worked toward strengthening small businesses; beefing up the police force, reducing homelessness and other quality-of-life issues for the community; and strengthening the bond between his city and the federal government.
In a statement, Michael A. Nutter, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, echoed Obama’s comments about leadership and commended Obama for naming a major metro mayor to his cabinet. He said Foxx was an active member of the conference and called him a “natural leader” who made quick work of getting in and helping the organization.
"Mayor Foxx brings a wealth of experience to the table, and I look forward to working with my friend and secretary in the future,” he said. “More importantly, the nation's mayors stand ready to work with Mayor Foxx for the good of all of our local economies to ensure a sustained national recovery, develop creative ideas to fund infrastructure improvements and fully support his efforts to put Americans to work with good jobs."
The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen E. Sandherr, sees Foxx’ work as a mayor and experience dealing with the federal government for infrastructure projects as a positive. He also pointed out that one of Foxx’ new duties is to cut through the red tape and get new transportation projects moving faster.
“It is encouraging that President Obama has decided to nominate someone who has first-hand experience with the significant challenges posed by our chronic under-investment in infrastructure and years-long and broken regulatory review process,” Sandherr said in a statement. “Foxx has a unique opportunity to promote new sources of revenue to address chronic shortfalls in federal funding for our aging network of highways, bridges, airports and transit systems.”
Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, added this is a critical time in the nation’s transportation evolution. He hammered on the point that infrastructure is vastly under funded and Foxx should remain focused on creating new programs that help propel the nation’s transportation agenda forward.
“We need leadership from this administration on how to fund the nation’s long-term, multi-modal transportation operating and infrastructure needs,” he said in a statement. “Report after report concludes that a lack of new investments in transportation is harming our economy and competitiveness, and slowing job creation. We also hope the next transportation secretary will take on some pressing and overdue transportation safety reform initiatives.”
For his part, Rep. Bill Shuster, Republican chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said he looks forward to working with the new transportation secretary once he's confirmed by the Senate. - Jon Ross