Dallas' first black mayor, Ron Kirk, was confirmed by the Senate on March 18 to be U.S. trade representative. Kirk ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Senate in 2002, but lost to Republican John Cornyn. Kirk, a native Texan, has had a lengthy political career, having served as secretary of state in the administration of former Gov. Ann Richards and as a lobbyist on behalf of the city of Dallas to the Texas legislature. After stepping down as mayor, Kirk worked for the Houston-based law firm Vinson and Elkins, which represents several airline companies and lobbied Congress for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Southwest Airlines.
On March 2, Obama announced his selection of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to be the nation's next secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius is the president's second choice for the position. Obama named her for the job after former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., withdrew his nomination. Daschle's exit came after the public learned he'd failed to pay more than $120,000 in taxes.
On March 2, Obama also announced Nancy-Ann DeParle as his pick for director of the White House Office for Health Reform. The president had originally intended to have Daschle fill both posts.
The HHS Secretary will guide critical, high-profile federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the National Institutes of Health. Before serving as governor of Kansas, Sebelius also served as a two-term state insurance commissioner, helped draft a proposed national bill of rights for patients and served as the president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Carol Browner will serve as White House energy "czar," a new position that the president is creating. Browner, who served as a senior adviser on the Obama transition team, led the Environmental Protection Agency for eight years, nearly a quarter of the agency's existence, during the Clinton administration. As energy czar, Browner will coordinate the work of various energy and environmental agencies, paying particular attention to climate change. Currently, Browner is chairwoman of the National Audubon Society and a principal in the Albright Group, an investment consulting firm that focuses on emerging markets.
President Obama nominated Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu as Department of Energy secretary. Chu was confirmed by the Senate on Inauguration Day, becoming the first Nobel laureate serve in a Cabinet position. Chu was part of a three-man team that won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997 for developing and advancing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. Before entering the Obama administration, he taught physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley and served as the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.