U.S. President Barack Obama will nominate Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx as his new transportation secretary Monday, a White House source told several media outlets Sunday.
The nomination would make the Democrat Foxx the only African-American chosen for a Cabinet opening in Obama’s second term.
Outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced in January he would leave the job once the Senate confirmed his successor, although budget battles delayed his departure. The Republican has come under fire from both sides of the political spectrum for his controversial cuts under sequestration, including furloughs of air-traffic controllers that wreaked havoc on air travel over the past week.
Votes in the House of Representatives and Senate last week reversed those furloughs, but a host of challenges stemming from the forced budget cuts remain for his successor.
Foxx’s name was floated as a possible pick for the post earlier this year, along with those of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Debbie A.P. Hersman.
Foxx, the first black student-body president at Davidson College and a graduate of New York University’ School of Law, worked in the civil-rights division of the Justice Department before joining the staff of the House Judiciary Committee in 1999. He spent several years working for a private law firm and became an at-large representative on the Charlotte City Council in 2005, where he chaired the Transportation Committee.
The father of two, who turns 42 Tuesday, ascended to mayor of the Queen City in 2009. Nearly 70 percent of voters helped bring him back in November 2011, and his profile grew even larger when Charlotte won the bid to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
However, many were confused when the mayor announced three weeks ago that 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,” Foxx told the Charlotte Observer at the time.
Foxx, who has called Obama a close friend, would be the president’s first black nominee among the new Cabinet members appointed for the second term, and his nomination is widely seen as part of an effort to boost the number of minorities in high-level positions.
The president came under fire early in his second term from the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said Obama lacked diversity among his nominees.
“The people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity,” Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, wrote in a letter to the president.
Comedian Conan O’Brien chimed in on the topic Saturday night at the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner, telling the president, “Your hair is so white, it could be a member of your Cabinet.”
Currently, Attorney General Eric H. Holder is the only African-American to lead a Cabinet department.
A White House official, who confirmed Foxx’s nomination to the Associated Press Sunday on condition of anonymity, noted that Foxx had led efforts to better his city’s transit infrastructure and to expand economic opportunities. The source also praised Foxx’s ability to integrate local, state and federal resources to meet transportation challenges.
“During Foxx's term as mayor, Charlotte has broken ground on several important 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 moved to extend the LYNX light rail system to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte,” the official told AP.
Although the White House has showered Foxx with praise, some of his decisions have been questioned closer to home.
“The mayor is fighting an effort to shift control of Charlotte-Douglas from the city to an independent authority,” the Charlotte Observer noted. “Local business leaders and some legislators have said they are worried the city has been meddling in airport affairs, a charge Foxx has denied.”
The newspaper also claimed that the streetcar project that Foxx launched with a $25 million federal grant is in limbo, with the mayor unable to convince City Council members to approve an expansion.
It remained unclear Sunday whether Foxx would resign before his Senate confirmation hearing or wait to be confirmed. The nomination process could begin as early as next month.