VOLUME 28 NO. 14 | MARCH 28 - APRIL 3, 2009

Locke gears up for new career in D.C.

Last updated 3-26-09 at 8:13 a.m.

Gov. Gary Locke

By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly

At the end of his first confirmation hearing, former Washington Governor Gary Locke admitted that the job ahead as U.S. Commerce Secretary will be a big task that requires working together but said he was excited.

The U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination by unanimous consent as U.S. Commerce Secretary on March 24.

Locke, 59, says he looks forward to his first days on the job. He is especially looking forward to working with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the White House China Team.

Focusing on creating more jobs and the upcoming 2010 census are other top priorities on his list.

Unlike his past experiences negotiating trade agreements on behalf of Washington state, he said his goal is not only to get jobs for the state, but also for all states.

U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell introduced Locke during his initial confirmation hearing almost a week earlier. Each senator took a few minutes to go over Locke’s list of accomplishments. At the end of the hearing, Locke said he felt humbled and honored. The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved his nomination the next day.

Locke plans to move his family — wife, Mona, daughters Emily and Madeline, and son, Dylan — to Washington, D.C. after the school year is finished in June. He says his children are excited to move to the nation’s capital and study the American Revolution and other aspects of U.S. history.

He traveled back and forth to Washington state between confirmation hearings.

Locke addressed the current economic crisis hitting the country and possible solutions to create more jobs. “My goal is simple: to carry out the president's plan for economic recovery by putting every part of the Department of Commerce single-mindedly to work on saving American jobs and creating family-wage jobs of the future,” Locke said. “We must rebuild, retool, and reinvent our national strategies for sustained economic success.”

Locke, the first Chinese-American governor, was President Obama’s third choice for the open cabinet position after Obama’s first two nominees withdrew. Locke served two terms as Washington’s chief executive, from 1997 to 2004.
The Commerce Department oversees other areas such as the country’s transition to digital television, oceans policy, and weather forecasts.

Locke said, “My expertise is in fishing because of the salmon treaties.” He acknowledged past commerce secretaries did not have comparable experience on fishing issues.

As part of a negotiation group made up of governors from such states as Oregon and Massachusetts, Locke says he has the necessary experience for the job.

His background in international trade, he says, is another area that qualifies him for the cabinet position.

In May, Obama travels to London and Asia in the fall. Locke said past commerce secretaries have traveled with the president on such official visits.

In his personal-financial disclosure report, Locke lists his current assets and bank accounts. The figure, a non-specific item reported by Cabinet nominees, ranges from $1.5 million to $5.4 million.

Preferring to keep his salary information a private matter, Locke’s current salary is greater than the one at his new job in Washington, D.C. Cabinet secretaries earn $196,700 a year.

There is no information available on when King County Executive Ron Sims will begin his review process as Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (end)

Assunta Ng contributed to this report.

James Tabafunda can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.


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