Mayor of N.C. city tapped as transportation chief

Vows bipartisan approaches to transit problems

Anthony R. Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, N.C., (center) with President Obama and transportation chief Ray LaHood.
Shawn Thew/EPA
Anthony R. Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, N.C., (center) with President Obama and transportation chief Ray LaHood.

WASHINGTON — President Obama announced on Monday that he would nominate Anthony R. Foxx, the Democratic mayor of Charlotte, N.C., to be the next transportation secretary, saying his local government experience would help him manage the nation’s roads, bridges, and airports.

Flanked by Foxx and Ray LaHood, the departing secretary, Obama said Foxx was ‘‘one of the best mayors that Charlotte has ever seen’’ and called him ‘‘an impressive leader.’’

The president also used the opportunity to prod Congress to provide billions of dollars for improving the nation’s transportation infrastructure. He said the administration’s top priority was strengthening the economy and providing more jobs for people.


“One of the best ways we can do that is to put more Americans back to work rebuilding our infrastructure,’’ Obama said.

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In accepting the nomination, Foxx praised the president and LaHood, saying they had earned ‘‘the admiration and appreciation of America’s mayors.’’ He pledged to seek bipartisan solutions to transportation problems.

‘‘There is no such thing as a Democratic or a Republican road, bridge, port, airfield, or rail station,’’ Foxx said. ‘‘We must work together, across party lines, to enhance this nation’s infrastructure.’’

The audience for the event included Foxx’s grandmother. Obama said during his remarks that she had told him she worked in the White House during the administration of President Harry S. Truman in the 1940s and 1950s.

Foxx, who is black, would add to the diversity of Obama’s Cabinet after criticism that the president had not done enough to recruit advisers from diverse backgrounds.


Robert L. Darbelnet, the president of AAA, said in a statement that he was encouraged by the selection of Foxx.

‘‘We look forward to working with Mayor Foxx once confirmed by the US Senate, and we are hopeful that he will help make transportation a top national priority,’’ Darbelnet said. ‘‘Mayor Foxx will face many challenges because the nation must address a significant transportation funding shortfall, and there are still too many Americans losing their lives on the nation’s roadways.’’

Just three weeks ago, Foxx announced that he would not seek reelection as mayor this year because he wanted to spend more time with his family, including two children who were born after he joined the Charlotte City Council in 2005. He has served as mayor for nearly four years.

‘‘I do not want to be a father who looks back and wishes I had spent more time with them,’’ he said in a statement on April 5.

Foxx, who turns 42 on Tuesday, was raised by a single mother and his grandparents. He became the first black student body president at Davidson College and earned a law degree from New York University.


He worked as a lawyer for a private firm as well as for the House Judiciary Committee and the Justice Department before returning to Charlotte to begin his career as an elected politician.

He has said that during his four years as mayor, he has turned around an economically afflicted city, adding 13,000 jobs, making Charlotte more hospitable to business and hosting the Democratic National Convention last year.

While Foxx does not have a transportation background, he worked as mayor to extend a light-rail line, open another runway at the airport, complete a major highway widening, improve a major bridge, and bring streetcars back to Charlotte.

‘‘Charlotte made one of the largest investments in transportation,’’ Obama said during a nomination ceremony in the East Room of the White House. ‘‘All of that has not only helped create new jobs, it’s helped Charlotte become more attractive to business.’’

Foxx would be the second black member of the Cabinet, joining Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

The president has nominated Thomas E. Perez, a first-generation Dominican-American and assistant US attorney general for civil rights, to serve as labor secretary. Obama has also nominated a number of women to his Cabinet, including Sally Jewell as interior secretary and Gina McCarthy as Environmental Protection Agency administrator. McCarthy and Perez are awaiting confirmation.

Obama is also close to announcing his choices for two other Cabinet-level posts. Longtime Obama fund-raiser and hotel heiress Penny Pritzker is considered the leading candidate to run the Commerce Department, and White House international economic adviser Michael Froman is the top choice to be the next US trade representative.