President Biden announces 16 key administration nominations

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday announced his intent to nominate the 16 individuals to serve in key administration positions.

Those named include Cathy Harris, Nominee for Chair of the Merit Systems Protection Board; Geraldine Richmond, Under Secretary for Science, Department of Energy; Daryl Baldwin, Nominee for Member of the National Council on the Humanities; Sean Burton, Nominee for Member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority; Genine Macks Fidler, Nominee for Member of the National Council on the Humanities; Beverly Gage, Nominee for Member of the National Council on the Humanities; Karen Hedlund, Nominee for Member of the Surface Transportation Board; Sylvia Johnson, Nominee for Member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board; Andrew Light, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of International Affairs, Department of Energy; Jane Nishida, Nominee for Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency; Lynette Overby, Nominee for Member of the National Council on the Humanities; Steve Owens, Nominee for Member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board; Jeffrey Prieto, Nominee for General Counsel, Environmental Protection Agency; Roberto Rodriguez, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Department of Education; Jennifer Sass, Nominee for Member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and Sam Walsh, Nominee for General Counsel, Department of Energy.

Below are official profiles of all the nominees

Cathy Harris, Nominee for Chair of the Merit Systems Protection Board

Cathy A. Harris is co-manager of the firm of Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, PLLC, in Washington, DC. She serves as the Chair of the firm’s Sexual Harassment and LGBT Practice sections. Ms. Harris has practiced employment law, including before the Merit Systems Protection Board, for over two decades. She has extensive experience in the litigation and settlement of federal sector employment class actions, and also represents individual employees. She graduated from the George Washington University Law School in Washington, DC with honors in 1997, where she was a member and editor on the George Washington Law Review. She received the Michael D. Cooley award for most successfully maintaining her compassion, vitality and humanity during law school and was elected to give the salutatory address at commencement. Ms. Harris received her undergraduate degree from Brown University in 1994.

Prior to joining Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, PLLC, Ms. Harris was an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. She also served as an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University Law School from 2001 to 2004. She resides in Silver Spring, Maryland with her wife and daughter.

Geraldine Richmond, Under Secretary for Science, Department of Energy

Geraldine Richmond is the Presidential Chair in Science and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon. Bridging the fields of chemistry and physics, Richmond’s research focusses on understanding the molecular characteristics of water surfaces, studies that have relevance to environmental issues such as oil remediation, atmospheric chemistry and alternative energy sources. Her teaching and extensive outreach efforts have focused on science communication and building a strong and inclusive workforce. She has been honored by numerous honors and awards including the National Medal of Science from President Obama (2016), the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President Clinton (1997) and the American Chemical Society’s highest honor, the Priestley Medal (2018).  Richmond is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society and the Association for Women in Science.

A native of Kansas, Richmond received her B.S. in chemistry from Kansas State University in 1975 and her Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1980. 

Daryl Baldwin, Nominee for Member of the National Council on the Humanities

Daryl Baldwin (Kinwalaniihsia), is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and serves as the Executive Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and Co-Director of the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages.

Baldwin’s forefathers were active in the political affairs of the Miami Nation dating back to the eighteenth century, and he continues this dedication to tribal self-determination through his efforts in language and cultural revitalization today. Baldwin was born during the mid-twentieth century, at a time when the last speakers of his heritage language were passing. This loss motivated him to begin seeking documented language resources and linguistic support, which ultimately led him to pursue an MA in English-Linguistics at the University of Montana. With the support of his wife Karen, together they embarked in 1991 on the difficult work of raising their four children with the language in a homeschool environment, which lasted for 18 years.

Daryl was born and raised in Northwest Ohio and currently resides with his wife Karen on their family farm in Liberty, Indiana. Together they have four children and two grandchildren who continue to inspire and encourage a hopeful future towards the continuance of their tribal nation.

Sean Burton, Nominee for Member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

Sean Burton is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cityview. Cityview is a real estate firm that has invested institutional capital to build or rehab over 150 multifamily and workforce housing projects throughout the United States. Since 2013, Mr. Burton has served as the President of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners, which oversees LAX and Van Nuys airports. During this time, the Board oversaw the adoption and implementation of a $16 billion modernization plan to upgrade all terminals, build a new international terminal, develop the largest consolidated rental car facility in the world and connect LAX to public transit via an automated people mover train system. Mr. Burton previously served on the Los Angeles City Planning Commission and is currently a member of the Young Presidents Organization and the Real Estate Roundtable. He also served in the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Commander Third Fleet Units of the United States Navy Reserve. Prior to joining Cityview in 2003, Mr. Burton was an executive in the Corporate Business Development and Strategy Division for Warner Bros., where he was responsible for strategic investments. His other professional experience includes serving as a transactional attorney at O’Melveny & Myers, LLP and in the White House and Democratic National Committee during the Clinton Administration. Mr. Burton is a graduate (cum laude) of the New York University School of Law and the University of California, Irvine. He and his wife, Teresa, live in Los Angeles and have two children, Russell and Grace.

Genine Macks Fidler, Nominee for Member of the National Council on the Humanities

After practicing Trusts and Estates law for over a decade, Genine Macks Fidler focused on community and philanthropic endeavors. Most recently, Mrs. Fidler’s alma mater, Brown University, has been the center of these efforts. In July of 2020, she became a Trustee Emerita at Brown after concluding a six- year term as a University Trustee. She continues to serve Brown in numerous capacities.

In mid-March of 2020, with the onset of the COVID 19 Pandemic, Mrs. Fidler with her PACI co-chair, initiated and drove Brown’s effort to reimagine a meaningful summer experience for Brown students. In approximately 12 weeks her team marshalled all University stakeholders and the global network of Brown alumni and parents to develop, create and oversee a seven-week virtual summer program, the Brown Connect Summer Institute (BCSI.) The BCSI provided students with an immersive, impactful and educational experience during a summer of unprecedented disruption. Over 1,000 students enrolled in the BCSI and several hundred alumni and parents participated in the program as presenters and project leaders.

In 2004, Mrs. Fidler was a founding member and initial co-chair of Brown’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC). She remains a WLC member. In 2018 after a decade hiatus, Mrs. Fidler returned to the BROWN/RISD Hillel board and continues there as a Trustee.

Mrs. Fidler graduated from Brown University in 1977 with a BA in American Civilization. She earned her JD (Cum Laude) from New York University School of Law in 1980 where she was an editor of the Law Review, member of the Order of the Coif, and recipient of the George P. Foulk Memorial Award for “outstanding sincerity and distinguished scholarship.” Mrs. Fidler began her legal career in New York City at Willkie, Farr & Gallagher specializing in personal service, taxation, trusts and estates, and not-for-profits. Returning to her hometown of Baltimore, MD in 1985, she continued this practice specialty as counsel to the law firm of Shapiro & Olander. Mrs. Fidler is now retired from the active practice of law. Mrs. Fidler and her husband live in Naples, Florida.

Beverly Gage, Nominee for Member of the National Council on the Humanities

Beverly Gage is Professor of History and American Studies, and Brady-Johnson Professor of Grand Strategy at Yale University, where she specializes in 20th-century U.S. political history. She is the author of The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror (Oxford), which examines the history of terrorism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, focusing on the 1920 Wall Street bombing. She is currently completing G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the American Century, a sweeping biography of J. Edgar Hoover, who led the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years (Viking). In addition to her teaching and research, Professor Gage writes widely as an essayist and public intellectual. As a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, she has explored subjects ranging from the history of civil-service “independence” to “law and order” politics to current dilemmas in U.S. foreign policy. At the Washington Post, she has written about the lingering effects of McCarthysim and the histories of the FBI and CIA, among other subjects. Her research on Hoover and the FBI has been widely featured in documentary films including “MLK/FBI”, “The Bombing of Wall Street”, “Enemies: The President, Justice & the FBI”, and “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”.

As Director of Undergraduate Studies in History at Yale, Professor Gage led an effort to redesign the history major, working closely with both students and faculty to ensure that the study of history and the humanities remains vibrant in the 21st century. She has carried on that work as Director of Yale’s Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, a selective interdisciplinary program that connects the academic study of history and the humanities with the practice of politics, statecraft, and social change. In 2015, she was elected to serve as the inaugural chair of Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate, where she worked closely with colleagues to create an effective voice for faculty on campus. In all of these endeavors, she has been guided by a commitment to exploring how history and the humanities can inform the most significant challenges of the contemporary world. Gage earned her B.A. from Yale University (1994, American Studies, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University (2004, Bancroft dissertation award). At Yale, she received the Sarai Ribicoff Award for excellence in teaching.

Karen Hedlund, Nominee for Member of the Surface Transportation Board

Karen Hedlund has spent most of her career as a legal advisor to federal, state, and local governments on the development and financing of infrastructure projects across the United States, including rail, transit, highways, airports, water and energy facilities. She brought that experience to the Federal Highway Administration as Chief Counsel and then to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) as Chief Counsel and Deputy Administrator. In the latter role she helped implement and provide oversight of the $10 billion intercity passenger rail program and the funding of improvements to the national freight rail system. Prior to joining the Department of Transportation, Hedlund served as a partner of the Nossaman LLP, advising state and local government clients on the use of public-private partnerships. Since stepping down from FRA, she has been involved in the development of major passenger rail projects, including the Northeast Corridor Gateway Program and the proposed high-performance rail project that will connect Seattle with Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia.

She has also helped advance public transportation through her leadership with the American Public Transportation Association, serving as Co-Chair of its Commuter and High-Speed and Passenger Rail Legislative Subcommittee. Ms. Hedlund grew up and began her law career in Chicago, Illinois. She has an AB from Harvard University, and a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. She enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren in Brooklyn, New York. She currently resides in Edwards, Colorado.

Sylvia Johnson, Nominee for Member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

Sylvia E. Johnson, Ph.D. currently works for the National Education Association in the Government Relations department, where she leads their legislative work on the safe reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, with specific emphasis on educating NEA members on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. Prior to joining NEA, she was the Assistant Legislative Director of Legislative Affairs for the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW). Some of the issues she worked on included the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Toxic Substance Control Act, and the Affordable Care Act. Prior to working in the Legislative Department, she worked in the UAW’s Health and Safety Department as an occupational epidemiologist where, in addition to her work on work-related health studies, she conducted hazard assessments and investigated incidents involving the death of workers due to either chemical, biological, or physical exposures.

Dr. Johnson graduated from Fayetteville State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography and double minors in Mathematics and Physics. She earned a Master of Science degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Industrial Hygiene, and a Ph.D. degree from Old Dominion University in Urban Health Services Research with a concentration in Occupational and Environmental Health.

Andrew Light, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of International Affairs, Department of Energy

Andrew Light, Ph.D., joined the Biden Administration in January to serve as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs in the Department of Energy. Previously he was University Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Atmospheric Sciences at George Mason University, and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., where he worked at the intersection of U.S. and international climate and energy policy. From 2013-2016 he served as Senior Adviser and India Counselor to the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change and on the staff of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Office of Policy Planning in the U.S. Department of State. In this capacity, he was Director of the U.S.-India Joint Working Group for Combating Climate Change and Chair of the U.S. Interagency Climate Working Group for negotiation of the Sustainable Development Goals; he also served on the senior strategy team for the UN climate negotiations, among other duties. In recognition of this work, Light shared in a Superior Honor Award, from the U.S. Department of State in July 2016 for “contributions to the U.S. effort that made the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, where the landmark Paris Agreement was concluded, a historic success.”

Light has authored or co-authored dozens of policy reports on international energy and climate issues, and has been a long-time champion of work demonstrating the benefits of international climate and energy cooperation on the employment opportunities, security, environmental quality, and health of the American people. As the grandson of two West Virginia coal miners, his understanding of the vital necessity for a strong U.S. energy economy is rooted in his childhood. He grew up in rural Georgia, where he formed an abiding appreciation of the environment, completing his undergraduate degree at Mercer University, graduate studies at the University of California at Riverside, and a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Alberta. He lives with his family in Washington, D.C.

Jane Nishida, Nominee for Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency

Jane Nishida has over thirty years of environmental experience working in the federal and state government, international and non-governmental organizations. Ms. Nishida is currently the Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In this capacity, she manages EPA’s international and tribal programs, working closely with foreign and tribal governments, international and tribal organizations, and other key stakeholders.  

Prior to joining EPA, Ms. Nishida worked at the World Bank as the Senior Environmental Institutions Specialist. Ms. Nishida also served as the Secretary for the Maryland Department of Environment, and as the Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Ms. Nishida has a Juris Doctorate degree from Georgetown University Law Center and Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations from Lewis and Clark College.

Lynette Overby, Nominee for Member of the National Council on the Humanities

Lynnette Young Overby, Ph.D. is a Professor of Theatre and Dance at the University of Delaware, Deputy Director of the Community Engagement Initiative, Director of the Partnership for Arts & Culture, and Artistic Director of the Sharing Our Legacy Dance Theatre.

Overby works at the University of Delaware and with several local, national and international organizations developing community engagement programs and projects designed to address racial justice issues. For example, as Scholarship Chair of the Engaged Scholarship Consortium, and as Director of the Partnership for Arts & Culture, Overby administers social justice grant programs for faculty and community partners. Over the years, thousands of community partners have benefited from the work of these projects.

She is the author or coauthor of over 60 publications, including 14 edited, co-authored and authored books. Her contributions have earned her more than 20 state, district, and national awards and honors, including the 2018 Lifetime achievement award for the National Dance Education Organization. Overby has served as an officer/board member in several national and international organizations, including The National Dance Association and dance and the Child international. She is currently collaborating with literary historian P. Gabrielle Foreman on “Performing History” research. Her most recent production, “Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Her life and Legacy” has taken place in Delaware, Texas, Alabama, Virginia, Washington, DC., Australia, South Africa and Belize. Through arts and community engagement collaborations, Overby has facilitated projects focused on increasing emphathy and knowledge in communities. 

Steve Owens, Nominee for Member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

Steve Owens is an attorney with Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP in Phoenix, Arizona, where he focuses on environmental, safety and health issues. From 2009-2011, Steve served as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). As the Assistant Administrator for OCSPP, Steve was responsible for managing EPA’s regulatory programs on chemicals and pesticides under the Toxic Substances Control Act , the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, and other statutes.

Prior to joining EPA, Owens was Director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality from 2003-2009, where he made addressing climate change, protecting children’s environmental health, and working closely with Arizona’s tribal nations top priorities for the department. Owens graduated with honors from Brown University in 1978 and received his law degree in 1981 from Vanderbilt Law School, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Vanderbilt Law Review. From 1982-1984, Owens served as Counsel to the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology. During 1985-1988, Owens was Chief Counsel and later state director for then-U.S. Senator Al Gore. From 1999-2002 Owens served as a member of the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation. Steve is a former member of EPA’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee and EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, as well as a former president of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), the national association of state environmental agency directors.

Jeffrey Prieto, Nominee for General Counsel, Environmental Protection Agency

Jeffrey Prieto is the General Counsel of the Los Angeles Community College District. His prior federal government service includes nearly 20 years across various agencies. Prieto began his Federal career as a White House Fellow assigned to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He then served as an Attorney-Advisor at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water. While at EPA, he was a member of the Phase II NPDES Storm Water team. He also served as a Trial Attorney, Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General, Deputy Executive Officer, and General Counsel in the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). He was lead counsel on a number of cases while at ENRD, including some of the Division’s highest-profile matters. Prieto served as the Chair of ENRD’s Diversity Committee Working Group and as Co-Chair of the ENRD’s Environmental Justice Plan implementation.

Under the Obama-Biden administration, he served as the Senate confirmed General Counsel of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). He was responsible for providing legal advice and services to the Secretary of Agriculture and to all other officials and agencies with respect to all USDA programs, operations, and activities. He was involved in all major USDA litigation, including class action matters, high-profile investigations, and major legislation.

Prior to his federal service, Prieto worked as environmental planner for a California municipality. Following his federal tenure, he has continued his public service as the general counsel of the largest community college district in the nation. Prieto earned a BA in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara, a J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, and a Masters in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University. Prieto is a native Californian and lives in Los Angeles with his wife.

Roberto Rodriguez, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Department of Education

Roberto Rodríguez brings extensive policy leadership, expertise, and lifelong commitment to advancing educational equity and opportunity. His distinguished career in public service includes senior government roles across two presidential administrations, on the White House Domestic Policy Council, and in the U.S. Senate for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). 

His dedication to education began by elevating the voices of Latino families, students and educators. Over the past two decades, he has played a key role in virtually every major education policy effort and legislative reform at the national level.

Twice appointed by President Barack Obama as Special Assistant and Deputy Assistant to the President for Education, Rodríguez developed and led the Obama Administration’s signature education initiatives across federal agencies. In these roles, he crafted proposals to expand early education; support the adoption of college and career-ready standards in schools; and increase college access and affordability. Rodríguez guided the Administration’s reforms of the student loan program, increases in the Pell Grant, and support for community colleges. In 2015, his work with bipartisan Congressional leaders resulted in the enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Rodríguez’s service on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee from 2001-2009 led to the successful bipartisan passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, the Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007, and the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.

Rodríguez is currently President and CEO of Teach Plus, a national non-profit organization dedicated to elevating teacher leadership and voices to advance educational equity. The son of public school educators, his parents and grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Mexico. Rodríguez grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a M.Ed. from Harvard University. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children. 

Jennifer Sass, Nominee for Member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

Jennifer Sass is a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental non-profit organization, where she has served since 2001., Since 2008, she has served as part-time faculty at the George Washington University Milken School of Public Health. Much of Dr Sass’ work is focused on understanding and explaining the science behind toxic chemical regulation and on advocating for regulations that are consistent with science, health policy, and environmental law. She frequently provides testimony and scientific briefings for members of Congress and federal advisory committees and is a lecturer at George Washington University’s department of environmental and occupational health. She has published over four dozen articles in peer-reviewed journals. She was a Board Member of the NIEHS National Toxicology Program Board of Scientific Counselors (2016-2020). She holds BSc, MSc, and PhD degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and a Post-Doctoral Certificate (2000) from the University of Maryland, College of Medicine, Program in Human Health and the Environment.

Sam Walsh, Nominee for General Counsel, Department of Energy

Samuel T. Walsh is an attorney and former Deputy General Counsel for Energy Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy. In his more than six years at the Department of Energy during the Obama Administration, he also served as Associate General Counsel and Senior Legal Advisor to the General Counsel. Walsh is currently a lawyer in private practice at Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. Prior to his service at the Department of Energy, he also worked as an associate in the energy group at Hogan Lovells LLP and as a law clerk to the Hon. Judge David S. Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Walsh holds a B.A. from Yale College, an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Originally from New York, Walsh now lives in Washington D.C. with his wife and two children.

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