Mayor Foxx: Secretary of Transportation, Chooser of Tomatoes

What I learned about our mayor from seeing him at the farmer's market one time
ImaginePhotographyDC via Flickr
Our mayor. For now.

Here is my Anthony Foxx anecdote:

I once saw him out at the farmer’s market on Yorkmont Road. It was a rainy Saturday. He was wearing a raincoat and a ballcap. He was picking through the tomatoes. He recognized that people recognized him. He’d look up and smile every so often. Then he’d put his head back down and keep checking for blemishes.

That’s it. He chooses his own tomatoes. He is self-aware. He wears raincoats when it rains.

Now take those tidbits and try and predict what sort of cabinet member he’ll be.

Today, President Obama is announcing that Foxx, Charlotte’s mayor, is his nominee for U.S. Secretary of Transportation, a position that, shockingly, requires little to no transportation experience. You ever have a boss that always asks you to think outside the box? And then you say, well, how exactly do I think outside the box? What did you have in mind? And he’s all: “I don’t know. I’m going to get another cup of coffee.” That guy is probably the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

This is just another case of Charlotte being on a national stage, albeit in this case, it’s more about a guy getting the hell out of Charlotte to reach for his political dreams. I know. If the president asks you to do a job, you do it, but this has got to be better than a part-time mayorship in the 17th biggest city in America. I’m surprised BuzzFeed hasn’t already posted a “16 mayors who govern more people than Anthony Foxx” listicle yet.

Also, while this is big news for us, remember that most of America has no idea who the hell Anthony Foxx is:

@TheGreatOne2012 has this little line in his Twitter bio: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” I think I’m okay with him not knowing who Anthony Foxx is.

So what is Charlotte going to do when Anthony Foxx splits town? How will we fill the void? Who will take over as interim mayor during this critical time in our city’s history? Luckily, The Charlotte Observer posed that question to councilman Michael Barnes:

In light of our form of government, I don’t think there’s a rush to make a selection.

Oh.

So yes, the mayor doesn’t have a lot of power in Charlotte. It’s a part-time job that pays $22,000 a year (albeit with a $10,000 expense account). So far, he hasn’t been able to make city council extend a streetcar line. He hasn’t been able to get the state of North Carolina to stop trying to steal away Charlotte’s airport. He did get the Carolina Panthers to stay (even though they weren’t directly threatening to leave), but that required more than $60 million in city cash. People tend to listen to you when you’re fumbling through your checkbook.

But really, Charlotte is in pretty good shape. Despite the talk about the state meddling in our business, we’re not primed for a complete takeover (see: Detroit). People are still moving here. Others are envious of our light rail line. Things are going so well here that other people are picking off our big names and calling them up to the big leagues. Charlotte is like a farm team, comfortable and non-threatening and good fun for families but not quite up to the challenge of being world class enough to keep people here. Earlier in April, when Foxx said he wouldn’t run for a third term as mayor, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family. My first reaction is to think, well, that’s just what public figures say when they have another, more interesting reason for stepping down. But Charlotte’s family-friendly, so I’m like, I’m with ya, Mayor Foxx. Have fun taking your kids to Pinkberry and Ray’s Splash Planet on weekdays. Now we know Foxx is probably going to be working his ass off and traveling around the country. Pinkberry’s gonna have to wait.

We probably should have seen this coming. The mayorship in Charlotte has long been a springboard to other things. Harvey Gantt and Richard Vinroot used it to make senate runs that were ultimately unsuccessful. Sue Myrick won a seat in Congress. Pat McCrory is governor. Mayor Foxx turns 42 tomorrow, and has a big political career ahead of him. The cabinet position may be a stepping stone for something bigger. But while we wait for whatever that is, we can only speculate. Based on the tomato-triaging periodically-smiling raincoat-wearing past that I’ve witnessed, he’ll be thorough, confident and prepared. That’s a weak assessment. But that’s how you think outside the box.