In nominating Foxx, Obama said, “I know Anthony’s experience will make him an outstanding transportation secretary.” Prior to Foxx’s swearing in, the White House released a statement from the president stating, “Anthony knows firsthand that investing in our roads, bridges and transit systems is vital to creating good jobs and ensuring American businesses can grow and compete in a 21st century global economy.”
The president’s comments stem from Foxx’s career accomplishments as the mayor of Charlotte from 2009 to 2013 and his experience with transportation issues, such as the expansion of Charlotte’s light rail line, a new intermodal rail yard under construction at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and the implementation of several critical highway projects.
A Mayor with a Plan
Foxx was elected mayor on Nov. 3, 2009, winning 51.5 percent of the vote and defeating his city council colleague Republican John Lassiter. He won a second term on Nov. 8, 2011, carrying more than two-thirds of the vote against Republican Scott Stone. Originally elected at the age of 38, Foxx was the youngest mayor of Charlotte and was the first Democrat to hold the office since Harvey Grant, who left office in 1987. He was Charlotte’s second African American mayor, as well as its first newly elected mayor since 1995, when Pat McCrory began the first of his record seven terms in office. The Senate confirmed the president’s nomination of Foxx as secretary of transportation on a vote of 100-0, a honor shared with few nominees. U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) said Foxx would be a “superb” leader of the nation’s transportation system.
Early in his political career, Foxx gained a reputation as a quick study of local policy, leading a number of city council initiatives, including the development of policies to enhance job creation into the urban core of Charlotte, environmental efforts that led to a single stream recycling program and greenhouse gas reduction policies, and acceleration of the region’s transit plan.
As mayor, Foxx set three goals: strengthening and diversifying the area economy, improving quality of life, and building stronger relationships with Raleigh and Washington, D.C. During his tenure as mayor, while facing a nearly 13 percent area unemployment rate, Foxx announced the creation of more than 4,000 new jobs. He also worked to reinforce Charlotte’s role as a critical energy industry hub, hosted a series of town hall meetings with unemployed workers, pushed for changes to the city’s small business loan program to create jobs, saw the completion of a new runway at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, and led a delegation of Charlotte business leaders to meet with senior White House officials to initiate several economic recovery spending measures.
Foxx made several significant investments as mayor in transportation and made their implementation the cornerstone of augmenting Charlotte’s job creation and economic recovery efforts. Such investments include expanding the airport; working with North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue to accelerate the I-485 outer belt loop using a creative design-build-finance approach; championing the Charlotte Streetcar project; and extending the LYNX light rail system, which will build new roads, bridges, transit as well as, bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
Two other ex-mayors have become transportation secretary. Federico Peña, who was the first transportation secretary under President Bill Clinton, had been mayor of Denver. The second, Neil Goldschmidt, was mayor of Portland, Ore., before becoming Jimmy Carter’s secretary of transportation in 1979.
Career Driven By Transportation
Prior to his election as mayor, Foxx was elected to the Charlotte City Council in 2005 and served two terms as an at-large representative. As a council member, Foxx was the chair of the transportation committee, where he spearheaded the largest transportation bond package in the city’s history enabling Charlotte to take advantage of low interest rates and favorable construction pricing to maximize use of city funding beyond initial projections. He was also a member of the economic development and planning committee, and served as council’s representative to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Development Corp. and the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization.