Transportation Secretary LaHood to step down

January 29, 2013

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he will not serve another term in the post he has filled since 2009, but will remain on the job until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

“I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation,” LaHood said in a news release posted Jan.29 on the department’s website. “It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.

”Putting aviation on “a sounder footing” through long-term FAA reauthorization was among accomplishments LaHood cited across the transportation spectrum as highlights of his tenure at the top of the 55,000-employee Transportation Department. Before the four-year authorization measure passed in 2012, the FAA had operated without long-term authority to run its programs since 2007.

NextGen, the ongoing program to modernize the air traffic control system, was among the initiatives that will take transportation into the twenty-first century, along with more stringent automotive fuel efficiency standards, and investments in high-speed rail, he said.

AOPA looks forward to building on general aviation’s gains with LaHood’s successor, said AOPA President Craig Fuller.

“We wish Secretary LaHood the best in his future endeavors,” Fuller said. “Ray LaHood ran the Department of Transportation at a time of great change, especially in aviation. Technology-driven innovations, such as the NextGen advances in air traffic control and airspace management, are just now taking shape, and we look forward to working closely with his successor to ensure that general aviation continues to play a vital role in our nation’s transportation system.”

The administration did not immediately offer a timetable for replacing LaHood, according to news reports that also speculated on possible successors.

Attended GA rally

LaHood spoke about the value of general aviation in March 2011, when he toured aviation manufacturing facilities and spoke at a rally of 2,000 GA workers in Wichita, Kan. The rally had been organized by the embattled industry—then facing slumping sales and layoffs—to demonstrate its importance to the administration’s goal of doubling exports in five years.

“Even in a down cycle you still create $4.9 billion in exports. That’s extraordinary,” LaHood told attendees. “We are in your debt for the very professional way you do what you.” LaHood added that he planned to urge President Barack Obama to visit Wichita.

Before the rally, Fuller spoke with LaHood, and reported on the meeting in this blog entry.

Before becoming Transportation Secretary in January 2009, LaHood—one of two Republicans in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet—served for 14 years in the House of Representatives from a Congressional district in Illinois. He served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and later on the Appropriations Committee, according to his official biography.

Previously, he had been a junior high school teacher, youth-services bureau director, and a planner for a metropolitan planning commission. His Washington career got its start when he was hired as an aide by Rep. Robert H.Michel (R-Ill.)