Biden taps diverse slate for top jobs

Reginald Stuart | 12/24/2020, 6 p.m.
Backed by repeated state and U.S. Supreme Court affirmations that a majority of voters in America legally elected Democrat Joe ...

Backed by repeated state and U.S. Supreme Court affirmations that a majority of voters in America legally elected Democrat Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States, President-elect Biden and his teammate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, have been steadily building a unique White House leadership team that dramatically reflects the nation’s diversity.

With hundreds of appointments to go in the coming weeks, 12 of 42 Biden’s leadership designees are African-American, including retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III as secretary of defense and U.S. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio as secretary of housing and urban development.

Both are cabinet level positions.

President-elect Biden also picked Michael S. Regan, a North Carolinian known for pursuing the cleanup of toxic waste dumps and pollution-ridden landfills in poor and minority neighborhoods, to serve as the new director of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Regan currently heads North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality.

In addition, President-elect Biden has selected noted economist Cecilia E. Rouse to chair the president’s Council of Economic Advisers; named veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and appointed former National Security Adviser Susan Rice as director of the White House Domestic olicy Council.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Dr. Makola M. Abdullah, president of Virginia State University, echoing the sentiment of others about the post-election atmosphere.

“I think they (the Biden-Harris team) are listening to the community,” said Dr. Abdullah, referring to President-elect Biden’s choices for White House jobs. “I feel really good about what’s happening.”

President-elect Biden, a former U.S. senator from Delaware who served as vice president for two terms under former President Obama, is pushing forward in combining a seasoned White House staff with a mix of skilled government veterans and political rookies anxious to help the incoming administration.

Urging an oft-times uneasy general public to embrace his sense of respect, patience and civility, Mr. Biden has made it clear that his appointments will include everybody at the discussion and decision-making table, especially people from historically marginalized groups.

The White House team starts with the president, vice president and the heads of the 15 executive departments of the federal government. Mr. Biden’s designees so far have been sweeping in their breadth of diversity and experience.

In addition to Rep. Fudge of Cleveland, a veteran lawmaker and previous chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Gen. Austin brings more than 40 years of military service to his Pentagon post. Ms. Rice, a South Carolina native, is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a foreign policy expert. The post, Domestic Policy Council director, will be restored to Cabinet level by Mr. Biden.

Dr. Rouse, dean of the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs, previously worked on the economic councils of former Presidents Obama and Clinton.

President-elect Biden also nominated Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, an attorney and senior international economic adviser in the Obama administration, to serve as deputy treasury secretary. If confirmed, a Biden statement said, Mr. Adeyemo would be the first Black person to hold that top treasury role.

Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana was appointed senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Vice President-elect Harris named Hartina M. “Tina” Flournoy, an attorney, veteran Democratic strategist and aide to the Clintons, as her chief of staff.

Mr. Biden also announced his White House communications office will be run by six women, a first in the history of the office. That team will include two Black women – political strategist Symone D. Sanders of Omaha, who was national press secretary for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign, and Ashley Etienne, a senior adviser on the Biden campaign and former aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will serve as communications director for the vice president.