WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama today will nominate Charlotte, N.C., mayor Anthony Foxx to be secretary of transportation, a White House official said Sunday on the condition of anonymity because the nomination has not been officially announced.
The nomination of Foxx, who hosted last year’s Democratic National Convention, would make him the only African-American selected for a Cabinet opening in Obama’s second term. Attorney General Eric H. Holder is now the only African-American to lead a Cabinet department.
The White House said that as mayor of what it called one of America’s most vibrant cities, Foxx has firsthand knowledge of the type of infrastructure needed to create jobs and compete in a globe economy. The White House praised Foxx’s ability to integrate local, state and federal resources to meet transportation challenges.
Federal officials cited his work on a Charlotte streetcar project to bring electric tram service through the center of the city, expanding Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and extending the city’s light rail system north of the city to the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Foxx, who has called Obama a friend, was first elected mayor in 2009. He was re-elected in November 2011 with nearly 70 percent of the vote. He also is a lawyer for Charlotte hybrid bus maker DesignLine.
After a year on the national stage and calls to run for governor, the 41-year-old mayor announced 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,” he told the Charlotte Observer.
Obama has been under pressure to add more diversity to his Cabinet. The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus criticized Obama for the lack of minority candidates in a terse letter last month.
“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 in March.
If confirmed, Foxx would replace Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who announced in January that he would leave the job once a successor is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
The transportation secretary leads a staff of almost 60,000 people across the country.
Foxx doesn’t have an extensive transportation background, though he has some Washington experience. In addition to his work on the national convention and city-related lobbying visits, the Davidson College graduate served on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee from 1999 to 2001. Previously he worked for two years in the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department.