President-Elect Obama Announces Choices for Transportation, Labor, SBA and USTR Posts

Press Release

By:  Barack Obama II
Date: Dec. 19, 2008
Location: Chicago, IL


President-Elect Obama Announces Choices for Transportation, Labor, SBA and USTR Posts

Today, President-elect Barack Obama announced that he intends to nominate United States Congresswoman Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor, former United States Congressman Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk as United States Trade Representative, and Karen G. Mills as Administrator of the Small Business Administration.

President-elect Obama said, "I know we will be headed in the right direction again when we are creating jobs, instead of losing them, and when Americans are gaining ground in terms of their incomes, instead of treading water or falling behind. The appointees announced today will play an integral role in our efforts to turn our economy around. Daunting as the challenges we are inheriting may be, I'm convinced that our team and the American people are prepared to meet them."

The announcements made today are below:

United States Congresswoman Hilda Solis, Nominee for Secretary of Labor
First elected in 2000, Congresswoman Hilda Solis is serving her fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 32nd Congressional District of California. Prior to her election to Congress, Solis served eight years in the California state legislature. As a California State Senator, she led the battle to increase the state's minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour in 1996. In August 2000, Solis became the first woman to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for her pioneering work on environmental justice issues in California. In 2003, she became the first Latina appointed to the Committee on Energy and Commerce where she is the Vice Chair of the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee and a member of the Health and Telecommunications Subcommittees. She is also a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. In March 2007, Solis was named a member of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. She is the Vice Chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and serves as a Senior Whip, as well as a Regional Whip for Southern California. She is also serving her third term as the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' Task Force on Health and the Environment. Solis is a lifetime resident of the San Gabriel Valley and currently resides in the city of El Monte with her husband Sam, a small business owner.

Former United States Congressman Ray LaHood, Nominee for Secretary of Transportation
Former Congressman Ray LaHood is retiring from the United States Congress after serving seven terms representing the 18th District of Illinois. LaHood served on the House Appropriations Committee. He started his career teaching junior high school students, and later served as the Chief Planner for the Bi-State Metropolitan Commission, Director of the Rock Island Youth Services Bureau, and as District Administrative Assistant for Congressman Tom Railsback. After serving in the Illinois State House of Representatives in 1982, LaHood worked for U.S. House Republican Leader Robert Michel as District Administrative Assistant and, for four years, as Chief of Staff. He succeeded Mr. Michel upon his retirement in January of 1995. In the United States Congress, LaHood served for six years on the Transportation Committee and has led efforts to enhance Illinois' infrastructure, working to secure funds to improve local highways, such as the reconstruction of Interstate 74 in Peoria, the expansion of U.S. Route 67, and the completion of Route 336. LaHood has been a proponent for improving local airports through securing funds for new construction and expansion, while also working with officials to increase air service. LaHood, a native of Peoria, Illinois, is married to his wife Kathy and they have four children.

Former Mayor Ron Kirk, Nominee for United States Trade Representative
Former Mayor Ron Kirk served as Mayor of the City of Dallas from 1995-2001, and in 1994, he served as the Texas Secretary of State. He is a former Dallas Assistant City Attorney for Governmental Relations and served as aide to United States Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Kirk has over 20 years of experience providing legislative counsel to numerous governmental and corporate entities. Kirk was named one of "The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America" by The National Law Journal (2008), earned the Justinian Award from The Dallas Lawyers Auxiliary (2008), and was named one of The Best Lawyers in America in government relations law (2007-2009). Kirk earned his B.A. from Austin College in 1976 and his J.D. from the University of Texas School of law in 1979.

Karen G. Mills, Administrator of the Small Business Administration
Karen G. Mills has been a principal in the private equity and venture capital industry since 1983 and has taken a leadership role in the growth of more than 20 companies in the consumer products, food, distribution, textile and industrial component sectors. Mills was a co-founder and managing director of Solera Capital and Chief Operating Officer of E.S. Jacobs and Company. Mills chairs Governor Baldacci's Council on Competitiveness and the Economy and is deeply engaged in economic policy for the state of Maine. In 2006, she led the initiative for a $50 million competitive research and development bond which passed the legislature with strong bipartisan support, and was approved by public referendum. She also sits on the Governor's Council for the Redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Station, which recently went on the BRAC closure list, and serves on the boards of the Maine Technology Institute and the Maine chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Mills authored a Brookings paper on economic development clusters, and those recommendations were introduced as legislation by Senators Collins and Clinton in June 2008. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has been Vice Chairman of the Harvard Overseers. Mills has an A.B. in Economics from Harvard University (1975), and an MBA from Harvard Business School where she was a Baker Scholar. Her background includes consulting in the U.S. and Europe for McKinsey and Co. and product management for General Foods. Ms. Mills is the lead director of Scotts Miracle-Gro and a director of Arrow Electronics, a $15 billion semiconductor distributor.
Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama - As prepared for delivery
Labor, Transportation, USTR, SBA Announcements
Friday, December 19, 2008
Chicago, Illinois

Good afternoon.

Before we begin, I'd like to say a few words about the necessary step taken today to help avoid a collapse in our auto industry that would have devastating consequences for our economy and our workers. With the short-term assistance provided by this package, the auto companies must bring all their stakeholders together - including labor, dealers, creditors and suppliers - to make the hard choices necessary to achieve long-term viability. The auto companies must not squander this chance to reform bad management practices and begin the long-term restructuring that is absolutely necessary to save this critical industry and the millions of American jobs that depend on it, while also creating the fuel-efficient cars of the future.

Whenever I have been asked how I measure the strength of the American economy, my answer is simple: jobs and wages. I know we will be headed in the right direction again when we are creating jobs, instead of losing them, and when Americans are gaining ground in terms of their incomes, instead of treading water or falling behind. In recent weeks, I've announced members of my economic team who will help us make progress in these areas.

Today, I'm announcing several other appointees who will play an integral role in our efforts to turn our economy around: Congresswoman Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor; former Congressman Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation; Karen Mills as Administrator of the Small Business Administration; and Mayor Ron Kirk as United States Trade Representative. Together with the appointees I've already announced, these leaders will help craft a 21st Century Economic Recovery Plan, with the goal of creating two and a half million new jobs and strengthening our economy for the future.

If jobs and incomes are our yardsticks, then the success of the American worker is key to the success of the American economy. For the past eight years, the Department of Labor has not lived up to its role either as an advocate for hardworking families or as an arbiter of fairness in relations between labor and management. That will change when Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor. Under her leadership, I am confident that the Department of Labor will once again stand up for working families.

Hilda has always been an advocate for everyday people. When she received an award several years ago, she said, "Fighting for what is just is not always popular, but it is necessary." And that is exactly what she has done throughout her career, blazing new trails every step of the way. Whether it's creating green jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced or expanding access to affordable health care or raising the minimum wage in California, Hilda has been a champion of our middle class. And I know that Hilda will show the same kind of leadership as Secretary of Labor that she showed in California and on the Education and Labor Committee by protecting workers' rights - from organizing to collective bargaining, from keeping our workplaces safe to making our unions strong.

Standing up for our workers means putting them back to work and fueling economic growth. Our economy boomed in the 20th Century when President Eisenhower remade the American landscape by building the interstate highway system. Now we need to remake our transportation system for the 21st Century. Doing so will not only help us meet our energy challenge by building more efficient cars, buses, and subways or make Americans safer by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges - it will create millions of new jobs in the process.

Few understand our infrastructure challenge better than the outstanding public servant I am asking to lead the Department of Transportation - Ray LaHood. As a Congressman from Illinois, Ray served six years on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, leading efforts to modernize our aviation system by renewing our aging airports and ensuring that air traffic controllers were using cutting edge technology. Throughout his career, Ray has fought to improve mass transit and invest in our highways. But he has not only helped rebuild our landscape, he has helped beautify it by creating opportunities for bikers and runners to enjoy our great outdoors. When I began this appointment process, I said I was committed to finding the best person for the job, regardless of party. Ray's appointment reflects that bipartisan spirit - a spirit we need to reclaim in this country to make progress for the American people.

To strengthen our economy, we must also strengthen the small businesses that are its backbone. I can think of no one better to lead this effort as Administrator of the Small Business Administration than Karen Mills. With Karen at the helm, America's small businesses will have a partner in Washington, helping them create jobs and spur growth in communities across this country. A venture capitalist who invests in small businesses, Karen understands the challenges faced by both small business owners and the workers they employ. With a background in the private sector and experience helping Maine's governor promote growth across the state, I am confident that Karen will lead an SBA that will not only help small business owners realize their dreams, but help our nation rebuild our economy.

We also know that the success of American businesses, small and large, depends on their ability to sell their products across the globe. That is why we must engage in strong, robust trade and open doors for American products. In our global economy, we must compete and win if we are going to strengthen our middle class and forge bonds with other nations that can contribute to peace and stability around the world. But I also believe that any trade agreement we sign must be written not just with the interests of big corporations in mind, but with the interests of our whole nation and our workers at heart.

Ron Kirk understands this better than just about anyone. As Mayor of Dallas, Ron helped steer one of the world's largest economies. He has seen the promise of trade, but also its pitfalls. And he knows there is nothing inconsistent about standing up for free trade and standing up for American workers. During his tenure as Mayor, Ron brought different groups together to create jobs, invest in the community, and spur economic growth. As a leader, negotiator, and principled proponent of trade, Ron will help make sure that any agreements I sign as President protect the rights of all workers, promote the interests of all Americans, and preserve the planet we all share.

With these outstanding appointees, I have filled out our economic team, and done so at an earlier point than any President in history, because we face challenges unlike any we have faced in generations.

Daunting as the challenges we are inheriting may be, I'm convinced that our team and the American people are prepared to meet them. It will take longer than any of us would like - years, and not months. It will get worse before it gets better. But it will get better - if we're willing to act boldly and swiftly. And that is what we will do when I am President of the United States.