The Washington Post

BACKGROUND CHECK: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx


Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx in the headquarters atrium. Photo taken from a precarious perch five floors up by Washington Post photographer Melina Mara — an effort for which she was scolded and later banned for life from the building by building security.

As we celebrate National Infrastructure Week – What? You didn’t know? – and the Senate considers a multi-year highway bill on Thursday, it seemed only fitting to do a Loop “Background Check”  on Obama’s Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx.

The former mayor of Charlotte, N.C., on the job only since July, reveals among other things, that Google chief Eric Schmidt would be his dream addition to the DOT team. He also hints, not so subtlety, at a reading guilty pleasure.

Which Cabinet secretary would you most like to hang out with, and what would you do?

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.  Secretary Lew is one of the smartest, most dedicated and grounded people I know. . . .  I do not have a clue what Jack does for fun but I would be up for anything – Minecraft, a Yankees game or fixing the Highway Trust Fund.

What’s your favorite non-work-related Web site/blog/app/magazine?
My wife subscribes to Us Weekly. Occasionally, I happen to see it. I mean, I don’t really read it. Seriously.

Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that I _________.
Once traveled to New Orleans to learn to play jazz trumpet.

What’s your dream job (other than your current gig)?
I would probably own a professional sports franchise or make movies.

What is your favorite TV show?

It’s a tie. “Homeland.” It’s a great show but has a bit of a double meaning since it is filmed in Charlotte. I have recently become a “Game of Thrones” fan, too.

Which character from that show do you most identify with?
Robb Stark. Occasionally underestimated, a proven fighter, possessed with a strong conscience and willing to pay the price for what he believes. (Side note: Did Foxx see the Red Wedding?)

Favorite movie (or movies)?
“Star Wars – A New Hope.” When I saw “Star Wars,” it sparked my imagination by telling a story of an unlikely hero — a boy who grew up with his aunt and uncle who had enormous untapped abilities. . . . Eventually, he learned to use his talent for good. While fictional, it offered me an object lesson in overcoming circumstances and fear. Plus, it introduced some pretty futuristic transportation concepts.

Favorite sport – to watch or play?
Basketball. I love to play and watch.

Favorite food (Italian, Indian etc.)? Favorite dish?
New Orleans gumbo

What subject, other than your work, do you know most about?
College basketball, especially the Davidson, Duke and North Carolina programs.

What’s one word you wish people would use to describe you?
Denzel Authentic

You can draft one person in the private sector to come work for the federal government. Who would it be, and what would you have them do?

Eric Schmidt from Google. We . . . need new and innovative ways to bring our transportation system into the 21st century.  . . .  I would make him Chief Innovation Officer and charge him with helping us make even more effective use of data to measure our work and streamline our permitting systems. We would also accelerate our next generation air traffic control system. We’re already working to do these things, by the way, but he’d be a force multiplier.

What motivated you to go into public service?
My mom and grandparents raised me in Charlotte.  Both of my grandparents were educators, and I saw them grading tests late into the evening, preparing lesson plans and even going the extra mile to help their students.  I learned from them that progress sometimes happens one person at a time and what it takes to devote yourself to the success of others.  My mom was 19 years old when I was born.  She finished college and graduate school before joining the workforce.  She put a lot of her own life aside for me and hit the glass ceiling many times in her working life.  Every day, she got up and went after it.  Through her, I learned not to give up.  You really need those two ingredients in public service: a strong desire to help other people succeed and a relentless streak.

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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