A flurry of April announcements illustrates how the White House is moving to fill top spots at federal agencies that oversee major construction programs. The designees need Senate confirmation, but the lineup is winning praise from industry officials.

At the Dept. of Transportation, Obama’s pick to be under secretary for policy, Roy Kienitz, an aide to Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell (D), “is a person who hasn’t been captured by conventional thinking,” says John Doyle, special counsel for law firm Jones Walker LLP. Doyle was a lead House staffer and Kienitz a key Senate aide in drafting the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which streamlined the highway program and gave states greater funding flexibility.

The choice of Peter Rogoff, a long-time Senate appropriations staffer, to be Federal Transit Administration administrator is “just a winner,” says Pam Whitted, National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association vice president for government affairs. With highway, transit and aviation statutes up for renewal, “If ever there were a time when I would be putting a pre­mium on Hill experience in transportation arenas, it’s this year,” says Doyle.

Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Highway Administration, Victor Mendez, Arizona DOT chief from 2001 until February, hasn’t worked on Capitol Hill. But Cathy Connor, Parsons Brinckerhoff senior vice president for government affairs, says Mendez is “politically savvy” and has been “very visible” in Washington on highway issues. David Martin, president of the Associated General Contractors’ Arizona chapter, calls Mendez a calm consensus-builder. “Victor is the quintessential cool head in the room,” he says.

The nominee to be assistant Army secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, spent more than a decade on water-resources and tax matters as a Senate staffer. “She brings a wealth of experience,” says Dave Sanford, American Association of Port Authorities’ director of navigation policy and legislation.

Peter Silva, Obama’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water, is a pragmatic, capable industry veteran, observers say. Silva, senior policy adviser for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, was vice chair of the California Water Resources Control Board for six years. Perry Fowler, director of AGC’s municipal and utilities division, says, “It’s really nice to have someone coming into the Office of Water who has been on the ground and understands how water infrastructure really works...and how water infrastructure can have an impact on water quality.”

Position Name Status
Deputy John Porcari (Maryland DOT chief) Announced April 10
Under Secretary for Policy Roy Kienitz (aide to Pa. Gov. Rendell) Nominated March 16
FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez (ex-Arizona DOT head) Announced April 2
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff (Senate aide) Announced April 8
Asst. Army Sec. Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy (Senate staffer) Nominated April 3
Asst. Administrator, Air Regina McCarthy (Conn. DEP head) Nominated March 16
Asst. Administrator, Solid-Waste-Emerg. Response Mathy Stanislaus (environmental lawyer) Announced March 31
Asst. Administrator, Water Peter Silva (advisoe, Calif. water utility) Announced April 3
Asst. Sec., Effi ciency and Renewable Energy Cathy Zoi (CEO, Alliance for Climate Protection) Announced March 27
Asst. Sec., Environ. Mgmt. Ines Triay (acting EM chief) Nominated March 31
Asst. Sec., Employment and Training Jane Oates (executive director, N.J. Commission on Higher Education) Announced April 8
OSHA Jordan Barab (former House aide) Named acting chief April 8
Administrator Martha Johnson, Computer Sciences Corp. vice president Announced April 3

Regina McCarthy, nominated to head EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, has a strong background in clean-air issues and close ties to Administrator Lisa Jackson, says John Walke, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. McCarthy, the Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection commissioner, played a key role in developing a program to counter global warming in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Walke says Obama’s choices indicate combating global warming will be his administration’s top environmental priority. “It’s really unprecedented to have this number of nominees in the energy and environmental posts with deep experience in global-warming policy, all committed to the President’s agenda,” he says.