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Slater Nomination Welcomed

By Randolph E. Schmid
Associated Press Writer
Friday, December 20, 1996; 1:49 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A chorus of cheers and a single boo greeted the selection of Rodney Slater to become secretary of transportation.

``It's a terrific choice. He's a quick study, widely read, well versed. He's articulate, a well spoken, thoughtful person,'' said Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee.

The selection is ``a natural,'' said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee. ``I think he's a very capable person.''

But consumer advocate Ralph Nader sees the choice as ``a terrible appointment. He's basically a complete tool of the trucking and auto industries.''

Nader has been critical of Slater for promoting the National Highway System, an upgrade of the interstate system that Nader insists will merely lead to more highway deaths.

Slater, who is black, also helps Clinton maintain a representation of high-profile minorities in his cabinet as he replaces outgoing secretary Federico Pena, a Hispanic.

Slater will face two crucial problems as he takes office -- the increase in highway deaths across the country and, in some states at least, waning confidence in the federal highway program.

As federal highway administrator, Slater has managed a $20 billion annual budget in an agency with 3,500 employees and an office in every state. He has forged a reputation for being able to work with local officials and members of Congress on the hometown issues dear to their hearts.

The Marianna, Ark., native was chairman of the Arkansas State Highway Commission in 1992-93 and a member of the commission since 1987. He was an executive assistant to then-Gov. Clinton from 1983-87 and assistant attorney general for Arkansas in 1980-82.

He is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and the University of Arkansas School of Law.

© Copyright 1996 The Associated Press

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