Foxx resigned as mayor of Charlotte, N.C., on July 1 to run DOT, presumably for the rest of President Obama's term in office. He was confirmed by the Senate a week earlier on a 100-0 vote.
Foxx, 42, succeeds Ray LaHood, the affable former House member who was known for his straight talk and sense of humor. Like LaHood, Foxx comes to the job with no special expertise in transportation issues but lots of experience in government. He worked for the House Judiciary Committee and at the Justice Department before returning to Charlotte in 2005, where he served on the City Council and eventually was elected mayor.
A rising African-American star in the Democratic Party, Foxx is a good political choice for Obama because he adds to the Cabinet's racial diversity. The position also boosts Foxx's national profile, which can't hurt in future bids for elected office. Foxx was the first Democrat to get elected as mayor of Charlotte in 22 years. Raised by a single mother and his grandparents, he eventually went to Davidson College and became the first black student-body president. He has a law degree from New York University and practiced in the private sector before going into politics. When Foxx ran for mayor and won in 2009, he became the city's youngest mayor and only the second African-American to hold the seat. He then successfully led the city's bid to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Little is known about Foxx's transportation interests, other than that he fought hard to bring a modern streetcar system to Charlotte and extended its light-rail line. This advocacy for mass transit could be a boon to advocates of livable (that is, walkable, bike-friendly, car-optional) cities, who frequently are ignored in the broader political dealings on highways. "The fact that Foxx comes from a major central city is also a huge benefit. It means he understands urban needs, which aren't just highways," urban planner Dan Malouff wrote on his Greater, Greater Washington blog when Foxx was nominated to his post.