How the Obama Cabinet Took Shape

Biographies as Provided by the Transition Except those from the Post-Inauguration
Nov. 24
Secretary of the Treasury

Timothy Geithner - Timothy Geithner currently serves as president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he has played a key role in formulating the nation’s monetary policy. He joined the Department of the Treasury in 1988 and has served three presidents. From 1999 to 2001, he served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. Following that post he served as director of the Policy Development and Review Department at the International Monetary Fund until 2003. Geithner is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Dec. 1
Secretary of State
Sen. Hillary Clinton - Over nearly four decades in public service, as an attorney, First Lady, Senator, and presidential candidate, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has become one of the nation's foremost champions for children and families and advocates for women's rights and human rights. During the Clinton Administration, she transformed the role of First Lady, fighting for universal health care and helping to lead successful bipartisan efforts to improve the adoption and foster care systems, reduce teen pregnancy, and provide health care to millions of children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. As a representative of the United States, she championed American interests as well as the rights of women and girls in more than eighty countries around the world. In November 2000, Senator Clinton became the first First Lady elected to public office and the first woman elected independently in New York State; she has since won reelection. In the Senate, she has continued to advocate for equal access to health care, education, and economic opportunity for women and girls around the world.  As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Clinton has fought for and secured in law improved health care for members of the National Guard and Reserves and worked to bring our troops home safely and responsibly from Iraq.  She also serves as the only Senate member of the Transformation Advisory Group to the Joint Forces Command, working to modernize our military. And Senator Clinton has continued to fight for quality, affordable health care for every American, working to strengthen the Children’s Health Insurance Program and expand the use of health information technology. Most recently, as a groundbreaking candidate for President of the United States, Senator Clinton became the first woman ever to win a presidential primary, receiving more than 18 million votes as an advocate for working families and a voice for millions of Americans who have felt invisible to their government.

Dec. 1
Secretary of Defense

Robert Gates - Dr. Robert M. Gates was sworn in on December 18, 2006, as the 22nd Secretary of Defense. Before entering his present post, Secretary Gates was the President of Texas A&M University, the nation's seventh largest university. Prior to assuming the presidency of Texas A&M on August 1, 2002, he served as Interim Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M from 1999 to 2001. Secretary Gates served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1991 until 1993. Secretary Gates is the only career officer in CIA's history to rise from entry-level employee to Director. He served as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from 1986 until 1989 and as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser at the White House from January 20, 1989, until November 6, 1991, for President George H.W. Bush. Secretary Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, has twice received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and has three times received CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. Secretary Gates received his bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary, his master's degree in history from Indiana University, and his doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.

Dec. 1
Attorney General

Eric Holder - Mr. Holder is a litigation partner at Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, DC. During his professional career, Mr. Holder has held a number of significant positions in government.  Upon graduating from Columbia Law School, he moved to Washington, DC and joined the Department of Justice as part of the Attorney General's Honors Program.  In 1988, Mr. Holder was nominated by President Reagan to become an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  He was confirmed by the Senate and his investiture occurred in October of that year.  Over the next five years, Judge Holder presided over hundreds of civil and criminal trials and matters. In 1993, President Clinton nominated Mr. Holder to become the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.  He was confirmed later that year and served as the head of the largest United States Attorneys office in the nation for nearly four years.  In 1997, President Clinton appointed Mr. Holder to serve as Deputy Attorney General, the number two position in the United States Department of Justice.  He became the first African-American to serve as Deputy Attorney General.  Mr. Holder briefly served under President Bush as Acting Attorney General pending the confirmation of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Mr. Holder attended Columbia College, majored in American History, and graduated in 1973.  Mr. Holder then attended Columbia Law School from which he graduated in 1976.  While in law school, he clerked at the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund and the Department of Justice's Criminal Division.

Dec. 1
Secretary of Homeland Security Gov. Janet Napolitano - Named one of America's Top Five Governors by Time magazine and one of America's top women leaders by Newsweek, Janet Napolitano stands out as a leader in developing innovative solutions to some of our country's greatest challenges. As Governor of Arizona, she's fought for quality schools, affordable healthcare, sensible economic development, a safe homeland, a secure border, and a government that is run efficiently and responsibly.  She led the successful effort to create a new grade level in public school by offering voluntary full day kindergarten to every Arizona family.  She raised teacher pay, expanded access to health insurance, and saved seniors millions on prescription drugs. Her homeland security background is extensive: as U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Napolitano led the Arizona portion of the domestic terrorism investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing; as Attorney General, she helped write the law to break up human smuggling rings; and as Governor, she implemented the first state homeland security strategy in the nation and opened the first state counter-terrorism center.  She is a leader in coordinating federal, state, local and bi-national homeland security efforts, having presided over large-scale disaster preparedness exercises to ensure well-crafted and functional emergency plans. Napolitano was the first governor to call for the National Guard to assist at the U.S. - Mexico border at federal expense, and is a leading national voice for comprehensive immigration reform. The past chair of the National Governors Association- the first woman in history to hold this position- Janet Napolitano was re-elected in 2006 in a landslide victory as Arizona's 21st Governor. Prior to her election as Governor of Arizona, Napolitano served one term as Arizona Attorney General and four years as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.

Dec. 3
Secretary of Commerce
Gov. Bill Richardson - Governor Richardson is serving his second term as Governor of New Mexico, where he has worked aggressively to build a high-wage economy, expand health care access, and invest in renewable energy.  Richardson served for fifteen years in northern New Mexico representing the 3rd Congressional District.  In 1997, Richardson was nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, where he addressed many difficult international negotiating challenges and crises and promoted economic development. In 1998, Richardson was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate as Secretary of Energy.  Richardson has served as Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, and Chair of the Western Governors Association, Border Governors Conference and the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He has been married to his wife, Barbara, for 35 years, and received a BA from Tufts in 1970 and a MA from Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1971.  withdrew from consideration on Jan. 4, 2009.

Dec. 7
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Gen. Eric Shinseki - Born in Hawaii to a Japanese-American family, Eric Shinseki graduated from West Point in 1965. He went on to serve in the Army for 38 years, from 1965 to 2003, including two combat tours in Vietnam, where he lost part of his right foot. He served as Chief of Staff of the Army from 1999-2003...  General Shinseki has commanded troops from Vietnam to the Balkans, and his career has been marked by innovation, vision, and fierce loyalty to the troops who served under him. He is the recipient of numerous decorations, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Legion of Merit, and the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medals.
Dec. 11
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Daschle - Senator Tom Daschle was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978, serving eight years. In 1986, Daschle was elected to the U.S. Senate. Two years later he became the first Co-Chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and the first South Dakotan to be elected to a leadership position in the U.S. Congress. In 1994, Daschle was elected by his colleagues as their Democratic Leader.  Daschle is one of the longest-serving Senate Democratic Leaders in history and the only one to serve twice as both Majority and Minority Leaderwithdrew from consideration on Feb. 3, 2009.
Dec. 13
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan - Donovan was appointed Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) in March 2004 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.  Before joining the Bloomberg administration, Mr. Donovan worked at Prudential Mortgage Capital Company as managing director of its FHA lending and affordable housing investments.  ...  Prior to Prudential, Donovan was a visiting scholar at New York University, where he researched and wrote about the preservation of federally-assisted housing.  He was also a consultant to the Millennial Housing Commission on strategies for increasing the production of multifamily housing. The Commission was created by the United States Congress to recommend ways to expand housing opportunities across the nation. ...  Until March of 2001, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing at HUD, the primary federal official responsible for privately-owned multifamily housing.  He also served as acting FHA Commissioner during the presidential transition.  Prior to joining HUD, Donovan worked at the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) in New York City, a non-profit lender and developer of affordable housing.  He also researched and wrote about housing policy at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University and worked as an architect in New York and Italy.  He holds Masters degrees in Public Administration and Architecture from Harvard University.

Dec. 15
Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu - Dr. Chu is director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and professor of physics and molecular and cellular biology at University of California, Berkeley.  Winner of the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997, Dr. Chu served on the technical staff at AT&T Bell Labs (1978 –1987) and was a professor in the Physics and Applied Physics Departments at Stanford University (1987 – 2004). One of the world’s most distinguished scientists, Dr. Chu commands deep respect from his peers, deftly manages a complex governmental organization, and has a keen sense of public service. He successfully applied the techniques he developed in atomic physics to molecular biology, and since 2004, motivated by his deep interest in climate change, he has transformed the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab into a broad and innovative research program on energy technologies. He has a BS in physics from the University of Rochester and his Ph.D from UC-Berkeley.

Dec. 16
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan - For the past seven years, Arne Duncan has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools, where he has earned a solid reputation for confronting pressing issues in public education, such as transforming weak schools and increasing teacher quality. Prior to joining the public school system, Duncan directed the the Ariel Education Initiative, a program which seeks to create eductional opportunities for inner-city children on the South Side of Chicago. In 2006, the City Club of Chiacgo names Duncan Citizen of the Year. Duncan comes from a family of educators; his mother founded and has run a notable Chicago tutoring program for 48 years. Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University.
Dec. 17
Secretary of
Tom Vilsack - Governor Tom Vilsack was elected Democratic governor of Iowa in 1998 and re-elected in 2002. As a governor from a farm state, Vilsack has been vocal in his support for the farm bill and for renewable sources of energy.  In 2003, Vilsack passed the Grow Iowa Values Fund through the state legislature, a $503 million appropriation designed to boost the Iowa economy by offering grants to corporations and initiatives pledged to create higher-income jobs. Before serving as Governor, Vilsack was mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and was elected to the Iowa State Senate in 1992. Vilsack was born in Pittsburgh in 1950, and graduated from Hamilton College and Albany Law School.  Vilsack and his wife, Christie, have two children.

Dec. 17
Secretary of the Interior Sen. Ken Salazar - Senator Ken Salazar was elected to the United States Senate in November 2004. A farmer for more than thirty years, Senator Salazar helped form the El Rancho Salazar partnership in 1981, and he and his wife have owned and operated small businesses in Colorado. From 1999 to 2004, Salazar served as Colorado's Attorney General. He served as chairman of the Conference of Western Attorneys General.  From 1987 to 1994, Salazar served in the Cabinet of Governor Roy Romer as chief legal counsel and executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Salazar also practiced water and environmental law in the private sector for eleven years.   Salazar received a political science degree from Colorado College in 1977, and graduated with a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1981. Ken and his wife, Hope, have two daughters, Melinda and Andrea, and one granddaughter, Mireya.

Dec. 19
Secretary of Labor Rep. Hilda Solis - First elected in 2000, Congresswoman Hilda Solis is serving her fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 32nd Congressional District of California. Prior to her election to Congress, Solis served eight years in the California state legislature. As a California State Senator, she led the battle to increase the state's minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour in 1996. In August 2000, Solis became the first woman to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for her pioneering work on environmental justice issues in California. In 2003, she became the first Latina appointed to the Committee on Energy and Commerce where she is the Vice Chair of the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee and a member of the Health and Telecommunications Subcommittees. She is also a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. In March 2007, Solis was named a member of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. She is the Vice Chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and serves as a Senior Whip, as well as a Regional Whip for Southern California. She is also serving her third term as the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' Task Force on Health and the Environment.  Solis is a lifetime resident of the San Gabriel Valley and currently resides in the city of El Monte with her husband Sam, a small business owner.

Dec. 19
Secretary of Transportation

Rep. Ray LaHood - Former Congressman Ray LaHood is retiring from the United States Congress after serving seven terms representing the 18th District of Illinois. LaHood served on the House Appropriations Committee. He started his career teaching junior high school students, and later served as the Chief Planner for the Bi-State Metropolitan Commission, Director of the Rock Island Youth Services Bureau, and as District Administrative Assistant for Congressman Tom Railsback.  After serving in the Illinois State House of Representatives in 1982, LaHood worked for U.S. House Republican Leader Robert Michel as District Administrative Assistant and, for four years, as Chief of Staff.  He succeeded Mr. Michel upon his retirement in January of 1995.  In the United States Congress, LaHood served for six years on the Transportation Committee and has led efforts to enhance Illinois’ infrastructure, working to secure funds to improve local highways, such as the reconstruction of Interstate 74 in Peoria, the expansion of U.S. Route 67, and the completion of Route 336.  LaHood has been a proponent for improving local airports through securing funds for new construction and expansion, while also working with officials to increase air service.  LaHood, a native of Peoria, Illinois, is married to his wife Kathy and they have four children.

Feb. 3
Secretary of Commerce
Sen. Judd Gregg - Judd Gregg has the unique honor of being the first elected official in New Hampshire history to serve the state in each of the following capacities: three terms as United States Senator, 1993-present; two terms as Governor of New Hampshire, 1989-1993; four terms as United States Representative for New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District, 1981-1989; and one term as Executive Councilor for New Hampshire’s District 5, 1979-1981.  A New Hampshire native, Senator Gregg was born in Nashua on February 14, 1947.  He was educated in Nashua public schools, Phillips Exeter Academy (1965), and Columbia University (A.B., 1969).  He received his J.D. in 1972 from Boston University Law School and his L.L.M. in tax law in 1975.  Upon graduating from law school, he returned to Nashua and became a partner in the law firm of Sullivan, Gregg and Horton.  [biography excerpt from Gregg's Senate website]  withdrew from consideration on Feb. 12, 2009.

Feb. 25
Secretary of Commerce

Gary Locke - Partner in the Seattle, Washington Office of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.  Washington State Governor, 1997-2005: Gary was elected Washington’s 21st governor on November 5, 1996, making him the first Chinese American governor in U.S. history. On November 7, 2000, Gary, a Democrat, was reelected to his second term by an overwhelming margin.  King County Executive, 1994-1997: As chief executive Gary expanded transit services, adopted a nationally acclaimed growth management plan and successfully merged a regional transit and sewage treatment agency into county government.  Washington State House of Representatives, 1983-1994: Gary served on the House Judiciary and Appropriations Committees, with his final five years as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, writing state budgets.  Deputy Criminal Prosecutor, King County, Washington, 1976-1980.  J.D., Boston University, 1975.  B.A., Yale, 1972.  [biography condensed from Davis Wright Tremaine LLP website]

Mar. 2
Secretary of Health and Human Services Gov. Kathleen Sebelius - Elected as the 44th Governor of Kansas in November 2002, and re-elected in November 2006.  Chair of the Democratic Governors Association, 2007.  Named by Time magazine one of the country's Five Best Governors in 2005.  Prior to her election as governor, Sebelius served two terms (1995-2003) as the state's elected Insurance Commissioner and four terms (1987-1995) in the Kansas House of Representatives.  Executive director and chief lobbyist for the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association, 1978-86.  Special assistant, Kansas secretary of corrections, 1975-78.  B.A., Trinity College (Washington, DC), 1970; M.P.A., University of Kansas, 1977.  [biography compiled from a number of sources]

Cabinet Level:
Nov. 25
Office of Management and Budget

Peter Orszag - Peter Orszag currently serves as the Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), overseeing the agency's work in providing objective, nonpartisan, and timely analyses of economic and budgetary issues--supervising the numerous analytical papers and cost estimates that the agency produces and, to present the results, frequently testifying before the Congress. Under his leadership, the agency has significantly expanded its focus on areas such as health care and climate change. In previous government service, Orszag served as Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and as a staff economist and then Senior Advisor and Senior Economist at the President's Council of Economic Advisers.  Orszag was the Joseph A. Pechman Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution where he authored or edited numerous books and papers. Orszag graduated summa cum laude in economics from Princeton University and obtained a Ph.D. in economics from the London School of Economics, which he attended as a Marshall scholar.

Dec. 1
Ambassador to the United Nations

Susan Rice - Dr. Susan E. Rice served most recently as a Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Obama for America campaign while on leave from the Brookings Institution where she is a Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy and Global Economy and Development Programs. Rice currently serves on the Obama-Biden Transition Project Advisory Board. From 1997-2001, she was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Prior to that, Rice served in the White House at the National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs and as Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping. Rice was previously a management consultant at McKinsey and Company. She received her B.A. in History with Honors from Stanford University and her M.Phil. and D.Phil. (Ph.D.) degrees in International Relations from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

Dec. 15
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson - Jackson became the head of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2006. She had previously served as DEP Deputy Commissioner before being appointed to the post by Gov. Corzine, and currently serves as Corzine’s chief of staff. Her past experience includes management responsibilities at the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in New York for the Superfund program, the federal program regulating hazardous waste cleanup projects; for enforcement programs at both EPA and DEP; and for New Jersey’s Land Use Management Program.  She is a professional engineer, having received her Master's Degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University and her undergraduate degree from Tulane University in her hometown of New Orleans. During her tenure at NJDEP, she helped develop the Northeastern states Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), serving as Vice President of its Executive Board.  She has also focused on water issues, including expanding protections for surface waters that serve as sources of drinking water and habitat for endangered species.
Dec. 19
U.S. Trade Representative

Ron Kirk - Former Mayor Ron Kirk served as Mayor of the City of Dallas from 1995-2001, and in 1994, he served as the Texas Secretary of State. He is a former Dallas Assistant City Attorney for Governmental Relations and served as aide to United States Senator Lloyd Bentsen.  Kirk has over 20 years of experience providing legislative counsel to numerous governmental and corporate entities.  Kirk was named one of "The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America" by The National Law Journal(2008), earned the Justinian Award from The Dallas Lawyers Auxiliary (2008), and was named one of The Best Lawyers in America in government relations law (2007-2009). Kirk earned his B.A. from Austin College in 1976 and his J.D. from the University of Texas School of law in 1979.

Copyright © 2008, 2009  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action