President Obama has chosen Victor M. Mendez, former director of the Arizona Dept. of Transportation, as his nominee to head the Federal Highway Administration, the White House announced on April 2. His nomination now will be considered by the Senate.

Mendez joined Arizona DOT (ADOT) in 1985 as a transportation engineer and rose through the ranks to become the agency's director in 2001. At ADOT, Mendez succeeded Mary E. Peters in the top job. Peters also left to be FHWA administrator and later became secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.

Photo: Arizona DOT
Victor M. Mendez

Mendez was active on the Obama transition effort, serving on the agency review team for U.S. DOT. Mendez left his post as ADOT chief in February, one of several state cabinet head to leave when Arizona's Secretary of State Jan Brewer [R] became governor. Brewer succeeded Janet Napolitano (D), who was sworn in as secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security on Jan. 21.

Mendez is "well-respected in Arizona [and] in the transportation community," says Matt Burdick, ADOT's communication director. "He has done a lot for Arizona and will certainly do a lot, if he is confirmed, for the Federal Highway Administration.

Because of his long background at ADOT, Mendez is well known to highway interests. Jack Basso, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' director for programs, finance and management, says Mendez's selection "brings a person of substantive experience in the transportation programs at the state level to the forefront." Mendez was AASHTO president in 2007.

Before coming to ADOT, Mendez was a civil engineer with the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon and Arizona. He has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering form the University of Texas, El Paso and a master's degree in business administration from Arizona State University.