Rockefeller touts NTSB chief Hersman to replace LaHood at Transportation

The chairman of the Senate committee that has to approve Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's replacement is touting National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairwoman Deborah Hersman for the job.

Hersman is widely thought to be a contender for the Transportation secretary post in President Obama's second term Cabinet, which LaHood announced on Tuesday that he would not be serving in.

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Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem FCC commissioner MORE (D-W. Va.) tweeted Wednesday that Hersman "has experience to be terrific @USDOT Secretary." 

Rockerfeller added that Hersman "will make safety and investment in infrastructure priorities" if she is tapped by Obama to replace LaHood at DOT.

Prior to being appointed to the NTSB by former President George W. Bush in 2004, Hersman worked for the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Rockefeller told The Hill in a profile of Hersman that “Debbie has a great background – she has strong West Virginia ties and is a dedicated public servant

“Debbie has led investigations into several major transportation accidents – and done so with great skill and care," Rockefeller said of Hersman in 2011. "She is a remarkable leader and an asset to the NTSB.”

Hersman has said publicly that she is not interested in the Transportation secretary job, saying she is focused on her current position.

However, she might be attractive to President Obama as a potential Transportation secretary pick because he's come under fire for lacking gender diversity in his first round of picks for Cabinet positions in his second term. Obama's appointments for the secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury and the head of the CIA are all white men.

The NTSB is independent of the transportation department, although the work of the two agencies is often intertwined, as is the case in the recent investigations into the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" airplane.

Rockefeller's counterpart on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerDem senators back Interior coal leasing review Trump and Sanders whip up debate buzz Boxer: Sanders appeals to young voters with grandpa effect MORE (D-Calif.), has made similar comments about another rumored transportation secretary contender, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

"I think he'd be terrific at it," Boxer told reporters prior to LaHood's announcement of his retirement.

"No one has asked my opinion, but I think he would make a very fine secretary of Transportation," Boxer said of the mayor of the largest city in her home state.

White House officials have been mum about candidates in the running to replace LaHood. However, a long list of rumored candidates thought to be in contention for the DOT post has emerged.