Handicapping the Hunt for the Next Transportation Secretary

Ryan Holeywell looks at the contenders to replace Ray LaHood as Obama's Secretary of Transportation. Although his departure has not been officially announced, LaHood has previously signaled that he would leave after the president's first term.

2 minute read

November 17, 2012, 1:00 PM PST

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


Holeywell divides the contenders into five main categories: Star Power, From the Hill, Executive Experience, State and Local Leaders, and Wild Cards. Some familiar, and intriguing, names are included on his list, but Holeywell cautions that it should be taken with a grain of salt: "LaHood, though familiar with transportation, wasn't considered a major player in the field before becoming secretary, and he initially was gunning for a spot as the secretary of agriculture."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa seems to be the front runner: "The Los Angeles mayor tops just about everyone's list of possible DOT secretaries," says Holeywell. "Villaraigosa has made transportation one of his priorities since assuming office in 2005. In addition to being mayor, he's served as chairman of L.A. County's transportation authority, and in 2008, he was one of the most vocal advocates for a landmark ballot measure in which county voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase for 30 years to pay for transportation projects."

But what about another high-profile name from a big city? "[Janette] Sadik-Khan has become a celebrity in the transportation community due to her critical role in transforming New York City while serving as its transportation commissioner...She knows her way around Washington, having previously worked for the FTA, and though she has a hero status in the smart growth community, some critics have said she has a brash style and that it's hard to imagine her overseeing a multi-billion dollar highway program."

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