White House officials have confirmed that President Obama will appoint Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as the next Secretary of Transportation--a big leap onto the national stage for the local politician.
Foxx has three main transportation credentials. As mayor, he has advocated for expansion of the city’s light rail and a new streetcar. One of the nation’s busiest airports is in his jurisdiction. He also works for the hybrid bus company DesignLine, because being mayor is a part-time job.
But while Foxx has experience with public, green, and air transportation, he has only served as mayor for four years, the streetcar project has stalled of late, and he has no experience with national infrastructure planning. He would be the first Secretary of Transportation since the Clinton administration not to serve in Congress or the executive branch before holding this Cabinet position.
Foxx would be the first African-American appointed to a Cabinet position in Obama’s second term.
WFAE's Julie Rose joined host Marshall Terry on Morning Edition for an in-depth discussion of Foxx's appointment, including what it means for the mayoral succession in Charlotte.
TERRY: A White House official confirmed last night that President Obama will nominate Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as his next Secretary of Transportation. The official announcement is expected today. WFAE's Julie Rose joins me now.
Julie, we've heard rumors of this possible appointment for weeks now, but I know a lot of people have been wondering how the Mayor is qualified to head transportation for the nation. What exactly are his credentials?
ROSE: Well, they're slim, admittedly – and mostly focused on TRANSIT:
There's the light rail extension to UNC Charlotte – he worked hard to get federal funding for that.
The starter-section of the Streetcar is also his doing – though you and I know how much trouble he's had getting the city council – and community at large – to come on board with expanding streetcar beyond the initial mile-and-a-half segment.
Transportation also covers rail and air – during Foxx's tenure, ground was broken for that intermodal rail hub out by the airport – a pretty big deal.
Of course, the mayor's also embroiled in – and apparently losing at this point – a battle with state lawmakers to keep the airport under the city's control, rather than have it transferred to a regional authority.
But look, the White House says what's important here is that Foxx is a the mayor of "one of America's most vibrant cities" and he knows the important of investing in infrastructure to create jobs.
TERRY: So is this appointment the result of something else? What's his relationship with the Obama Administration?
The mayor has called Obama his friend. We know they've played basketball together. He's been to the White House numerous times in official capacity.
Think back to the DNC coming to Charlotte and the 2012 campaign – Mayor Foxx has been a loyal foot soldier for Obama--campaigning for him across the state, joining in on national calls and press conferences where the President needed a big city mayor to tout the wisdom of his policies. And the bottom line is that Foxx and the President seem to see eye to eye on transportation issues – the importance of transit, of faster rail travel, creating walkable cities and using transit as a way to shape urban development.
A secretary of transportation is a figurehead, really. A cheerleader and champion of the President's views--and Foxx is definitely qualified for that.
TERRY: Is there any indication that Foxx's recent decision not to seek re-election this year was in anticipation of this appointment?
ROSE: Could have been. Though Foxx made a point of saying his decision was about spending more time with his young family. That'll be a challenge in this new job that will have him traveling all over the country as Obama's transportation emissary.
TERRY: And what happens to Charlotte? Who becomes mayor if Foxx is confirmed this summer as expected?
ROSE: The city council will have to choose his replacement – and the only requirement is that he or she be a Democrat, like Foxx. Then, of course, there's a mayoral election in November, so whomever is appointed will only be in office for six months or so.
TERRY: Okay, thanks Julie.