What do FedEx founder and chief executive Fred Smith and high-powered lobbyist Linda Daschle have in common? Both are rumoured to be potential candidates for the job of US transportation secretary in the next administration. They join a list that is also speculated to include former FAA administrator Jane Garvey, former American chief Bob Crandall and - quite obviously - current transportation secretary Mary Peters.
Fred's name came up last week at the Boyd conference in Aspen. Answering a question from the crowd about whether Fred would be a likely pick, Air Transport Association (ATA) of America chief James May said: "You'd have to ask Fred Smith that question. I would love it. I would love it if Fred would take the reigns in a John McCain administration" should McCain be voted in as President.
As reported here last month, Crandall is also rumoured to be under consideration should McCain get elected.
With respect to the Obama team, "I don't think they have identified anyone particularly," said May.
John Podesta, former chief of staff in the Clinton admin, is running the transition for Obama. It is understood that one of Podesta's closest advisors is Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, whose wife Linda Daschle boasts a history in senior FAA leadership.
Now a senior public policy advisor for law firm Baker Donelson, Linda Daschle's bio reads like a transportation secretary's resume. In her 30-year career, Daschle "rose to become the second woman ever to be deputy administrator of the FAA and the first woman to serve as FAA acting administrator".
But she has also come under some harsh scrutiny in the past.
American Airlines wants the selection of the next transportation secretary to be a priority for the next administration, be it led by Obama or McCain.
AMR VP, state and community affairs Kevin Cox noted during the Boyd conference that the selection "tends to be the last pick as when you're picking a baseball team".
He added: "If you look at the economy and how transportation has become tantamount to how we drive the economy forward, you cannot make it a last thought decision. We're less concerned about the names as we are about the prominence and importance placed upon it."
(Initial photo - Mary Peters)