By nominating Charlotte Mayor Anthony R. Foxx to be the next transportation secretary, President Barack Obama has recognized the importance of local officials' voices in forging a national transportation strategy. Foxx, a rising star in Democratic political circles, has been at the forefront in implementing an efficient and popular light-rail system. He has expanded the North Carolina city's streetcar system, created the Charlotte Regional Intermodel Facility to more efficiently transfer cargo, and expanded runways at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
If confirmed by the Senate, Foxx will have big shoes to fill in succeeding outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican and former House member from Illinois. LaHood leaves a legacy as a strong advocate for high-speed rail, improving the nation's often neglected Interstate highway system and leading the support for legislation to ban texting while driving.
Foxx would join Attorney General Eric Holder and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as the third African-American member of Obama's Cabinet. More importantly, he brings the on-the-ground experience of a big-city mayor who understands what improving mass transit can do for cities and entire regions. That can only be good for Tampa Bay as the region continues to discuss how to create a mass transit system so critical to economic growth.