Anthony Foxx joins CMU as Distinguished Executive in Residence

Anthony Foxx, former Secretary of Transportation under President Obama, has joined Carnegie Mellon as the distinguished executive in residence for the 2018-2019 academic year. He will be working on issues that intertwine policy, environment, and engineering. A university press release summarizes: “In his new role, Foxx students understand how to most effectively bring people, policy and technology together to significantly improve the quality of life for citizens living in metropolitan areas.”

The newest Carnegie Mellon distinguished executive in residence indeed has a distinguished resume.

He earned a J.D. from the New York University School of Law in 1996, and worked for several years as a lawyer before starting out in politics serving as a city council member in his hometown of Charlotte, NC. He then was elected as Charlotte’s youngest mayor in 2009 and reelected two years later, the first Democrat to lead the city since 1987. In 2013, President Obama nominated him to be the Secretary of Transportation (a position he held until Obama left office), and he was confirmed in the Senate with a unanimous vote.

Unsurprisingly, given the description of Foxx’s upcoming role in the university press release, most of his political career was spent working on issues relating to metropolitan areas, both short-term and long-term.

As the mayor of Charlotte, he was immediately confronted with a city in the worst recession in over eight decades, hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis. Jobs were bleeding out of the city, which had been America’s second largest financial center; the 25,000 jobs lost represented an existential crisis. Foxx crafted a plan that included balancing the city’s budget, creating a demand-driven workforce development model that is now used nationally, creating incentives friendly to small businesses and entrepreneurs to boost Charlotte’s economy, and leading the city council to passing the largest bond package in Charlotte’s history.

With his plan, he was able to announce that over 4,000 new jobs were created, which was one of the first positive job indicators in 18 months. He transformed Charlotte into a critical energy hub, and lobbied for economic recovery measures from the Obama White House. When Duke Energy opened its new headquarters in Charlotte, President Obama was there to highlight the good news. He also led the completion of several significant transportation infrastructure projects and investments in Charlotte that drew the attention of other city mayors and President Obama.

During his time as Secretary of Transportation, two of the most significant achievements of the Department of Transportation were the Smart City Challenge and passing the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The Smart City Challenge challenged moderately-sized cities to submit plans that laid out the cities of the future—using data, applications, and technology to make transportation of people and goods cheaper and more efficient. 78 cities responded—from Seattle to New Orleans to Boston—and seven finalists were chosen to develop their plans further with support from the Department of Transportation. The FAST Act authorizes $305 billion in funding over four fiscal years to invest in all areas of infrastructure—from highway and vehicle safety to research and statistics programs. Essentially, the Department of Transportation website describes it as a “down-payment” for “building a 21st century transportation system.”

Here at Carnegie Mellon, Foxx will keep contributing his expertise and experience to Carnegie Mellon’s Metro 21: Smart Cities Institute program. He has already taken part in the INTERSECT@CMU Conference, where he was part of a moderated panel called “At the Intersection of Technology and Business: Smart Home, Smart Car, Smart City,” which was hosted by the Tepper School of Business.

University administration members are excited that Foxx is joining. “As a distinguished executive in residence with the Heinz College team, Secretary Foxx will provide real-world applications and strategic counsel on our smart city initiatives,” Ramayya Krishnan, dean of Heinz College, said in the university press release.

James H. Garrett Jr., the dean of the College of Engineering, praised the breadth of Foxx’s experience. “Secretary Foxx’s smart city experience—on both the local and national levels—will provide an invaluable learning opportunity for our students.”

Foxx wants to use this opportunity to share his accumulated experience in the public sector with the next generation and prepare them for the future. “It’s an honor to be joining an institution that is at the forefront of using technology and policy to transform city life,” he said in the press release. “I look forward to sharing my passion with the CMU community and sharing our model for innovative future cities with the world.”