President Barack Obama will nominate Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx on Monday to be the next secretary of Transportation, the White House said Sunday.
“As mayor of one of America’s most vibrant cities, Anthony Foxx knows firsthand that investing in world-class infrastructure is vital to creating good jobs and ensuring American businesses can grow and compete in the global economy,” the White House said in a statement.
If confirmed by the US Senate, the Charlotte Mayor would replace Ray LaHood, who has occupied the post of the transportation secretary since January 2009.
Foxx is African-American and it means that the move would add to the Obama cabinet’s racial diversity, something the president’s supporters have been urging him to do, writes The Guardian.
As Charlotte mayor, Anthony Foxx earned respect due to his improving the city’s transportation systems.
“Foxx’s career as a public official, in a rapidly changing urban environment, has been marked by an ability to integrate local, state and federal resources to meet important transportation challenges,” the White House official said.
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who studies federal nominations, said he didn’t expect the soon-to-be-appoined to have a difficult nomination process. As a mayor Foxx has less baggage than he would as a Congressman, for example.
“Sometimes it’s better not to be in the Washington morass,” Tobias said. “He has a different perspective. He has the perspective as a mayor from a progressive state. And that’s valuable.”
Obama has been under endlessly urged to add more diversity to his Cabinet. Attorney General Eric Holder is now the only African-American to lead a Cabinet department.
The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus had previously slammed the U.S. president for the lack of minority candidates in a terse letter last month, reports The Charlotte Observer claims.
“The people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity,” Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, wrote.
Joshua Schank, president of the Washington D.C.-based Eno Center for Transportation, said that Americans presidents for twelve years have used the Secretary of Transportation job to “check a box.”
“The administration has seen it as a need to be filled, be it a minority cabinet member, a female, or someone from the opposite party. Any transportation expertise is usually secondary.”
Comedian Conan O’Brien even told the U.S. president at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday night the president’s hair was now “so white, it could be a member of your Cabinet.”
By the way, the Charlotte mayor, who turns 42 Tuesday, previously said he would leave office at the end of the year to spend more time with his family: “I never intended to be mayor for life.”
Two presidents had chosen mayors to become transportation secretary: Bill Clinton appointed Federico Pena, who had been mayor of Denver, while Jimmy Carter nominated Neil Goldschmidt, previously the mayor of Portland, Ore.
Other secretaries have entered the job with little or no transportation background.