WASHINGTON — Last week during activities surrounding the inauguration of President Barack Obama, published reports quoted Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the only Republican still left in Obama's first-term Cabinet, as saying he would be sticking around for a while.
We now know what “a while” means.
The Associated Press reported early Tuesday that LaHood had said in an interview that he’s definitely leaving the Cabinet, but intends to remain as secretary until his successor is confirmed.
Later Tuesday morning, LaHood confirmed his intention through an e-mail sent to Department of Transportation employees.
Meanwhile, a source told The Trucker late last week that former Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota was a likely candidate to succeed LaHood.
Oberstar is a former chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The source noted that while in office, Oberstar was able to work with members on both sides of the aisle and that Oberstar had an extensive knowledge of all transportation modalities.
In its story on LaHood's departure, The AP mentioned two other possibilities— Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has pushed for increased rail service in Los Angeles and served as chairman of last year's Democratic National Convention, and Deborah A.P. Hersman, the current chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
LaHood has helped the Obama administration steer through a number of safety measures and highway projects during the past four years. His record has included steps to curb distracted driving, promote high-speed rail projects and improve roads and bridges.
In a prepared statement, Obama praised LaHood's efforts.
“Years ago, we were drawn together by a shared belief that those of us in public service owe an allegiance not to party or faction, but to the people we were elected to serve,” the president said. “And he has never wavered in that belief. Everyone who travels by air, rail or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safeer and strong.”
In his e-mail to DOT employees, LaHood noted achievements during the past four years.
“We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making,” he said. “We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows. We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines.”
Closer to home, LaHood noted internal achievements of the DOT.
“In December, the DOT was recognized as the most improved agency in the entire federal government in the 2012 Best Places to Work rankings published by the Partnership of Public Service,” he told employees. “Even more impressive, DOT was ranked 9th out of the 19 largest agencies in the government.”
LaHood says he will not run for public office in his home state of Illinois, saying he believes "you should go out while they're applauding."
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