According to Andy Pasztor and Peter Nicholas, "People close to the White House and familiar with the selection process said Ms. Hersman is a leading candidate to succeed Ray LaHood... A final decision is pending, though one person said she is expected to get the nod barring a sudden change of direction by the White House."
The Hill's transportation blogger, Keith Laing confirms that "President Obama is leaning toward National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman (NTSB) Deborah Hersman as his pick to run the Department of Transportation".
While a Democrat, she was "a former congressional staffer for both parties" and has won praise from both sides of the aisle in her leadership of the independent federal agency that, according to its website, "is charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the U.S. and significant accidents in other modes of transportation-railroad, highway, marine and pipeline...."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.), outgoing chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said (Feb. 03) he would like to see Ms. Herman nominated for the post. For roughly the last half of her 12-year stint as a Capitol Hill aide, she served as a senior adviser to that committee
Hersman was selected by President George W. Bush in 2004 to serve a five-year term on the five-member board. All appointees must be confirmed by the Senate - so one would not expect a bruising confirmation hearing as was seen with former Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense on Jan. 31. She made history when President chose her to serve as chairman (and confirmed by the Senate) in 2009 as the youngest person, at 39, to hold the leadership position for her second term that expires this year.
She has a "reputation as an outspoken champion of more-aggressive safety regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration" and is certainly showing that as indicated in the Daily Beast article, "Aviation’s Iron Lady: NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman" describing "the investigation into battery fires on board the Boeing 787 Dreamliner."
Considering that Obama has picked white males for many, but not all his cabinet positions, a female selection would be well-received by many of his supporters.
Laing writes that Herman's move to the top of the replacement list "follows the removal of another presumed front-runner for the DOT post, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D)."
Hersman sat down for a lengthy interview with The Hill in 2011. The Transportation Report's resulting profile of her can be read here.
Hersman and Villaraigosa were noted here as top on the list to replace LaHood when he announced his pending resignation on Jan. 29.
As noted, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency and should not be confused with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a branch of the Dept. of Transportation that focuses on motor vehicles.
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