A White House official confirmed with NBC News today that President Barack Obama will nominate Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Anthony Foxx as the head of the Transportation Department. If the Senate confirms Obama’s choice, Foxx will replace outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood. Foxx first appeared in the spotlight last year when he hosted the Democratic National Convention, and he is Obama’s first black nominee among the new cabinet members appointed for the president's second term.
Is Obama’s nominee choice a way to combat the criticism he faced early in his second term over a lack of diversity among his nominees? Perhaps, but Foxx appears to be a qualified candidate either way. The official that confirmed the news also noted that Foxx has led efforts to improve his city’s transit infrastructure in order to expand economic opportunity for businesses and workers. During his term as mayor of Charlotte, the city has taken part in several breakthrough transportation projects, including the Charlotte Streetcar project to bring modern electric tram service to the city as well as a third parallel runway at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. The city has also made initiatives to extend the LYNX light-rail system to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, according to the official.
"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 - expertise he will bring to his critical interactions with leaders at the state and local level as Secretary of Transportation," the White House official said.
Foxx, a member of the Democratic Party, is an attorney and held several positions with the federal government before his election as mayor of Charlotte in 2009. Prior to serving as mayor, Foxx was elected to the Charlotte City Council in 2005. Elected as mayor at the age of 38, Foxx is the youngest mayor of Charlotte and is also the first Democrat to hold the office since Harvey Gantt left in 1987.
Foxx’s political career began during his time on the Charlotte City Council. During this period, he led a number of initiatives including the development of policies that enhanced job creation in the urban heart of Charlotte, environmental efforts that led to a single-stream recycling program, greenhouse-gas-reduction policies, and the acceleration of the region’s transit plan. Foxx has also demonstrated an affinity for personal responsibility, refusing to accept a City Council pay increase in 2008.
While his résumé and character demonstrate that Foxx is qualified, the nomination must be approved by the Senate. Will they do so, or will headlines read “John McCain and GOP Try to Block Nomination”? Only time will tell.