Branstad names Paul Trombino to run Department of Transportation

Governor Terry Branstad finally announced his choice to head the Iowa Department of Transportation today. Paul Trombino III has been serving as Bureau Director of Transit, Local Roads, Rails, and Harbors for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Before this year he was Region Operations Director of the Wisconsin DOT. After the jump I’ve posted the press release announcing Trombino’s appointment, which includes some details on his education and work experience. Trombino’s appointment is subject to Iowa Senate confirmation, but he is well qualified for the job and should not run into any trouble.

I hope that in his new position, Trombino will be able to target state resources toward repairing Iowa’s many deficient bridges and roads, as opposed to spending the lion’s share on new road construction.

I also hope he will help the governor see the benefits of expanding passenger rail in Iowa. Representing the Wisconsin DOT at a high-speed rail conference last year, Trombino depicted passenger rail as part of a “robust, diverse transportation system that meets the public need,” not something to be pursued instead of repairing state highways. (Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker rejected federal high-speed rail funding shortly after taking office this year.) Passenger rail was a goal of former Governor Chet Culver’s administration, but Branstad has made clear that roads will be his top concern, funded with a higher gas tax if necessary. Branstad didn’t include any passenger rail money in his draft budget, although he hasn’t definitively rejected federal funds allocated last year to extend a rail link from Chicago to Iowa City. Rail advocates have been working on funding plans that would require certain local communities to cover part of future passenger rail subsidies.

Branstad announced most of his picks to lead state departments in November and December, but he delayed choosing a head for the Iowa DOT. Instead, he asked Nancy Richardson to stay on through the 2011 legislative session. Governor Tom Vilsack originally named Richardson to that position, and she was one of the few Vilsack department heads that Culver left in place.

Branstad’s administration is nearly complete, but he has a few other significant personnel decisions to make. Earlier this month the Iowa Senate rejected his choice to lead the Department of Human Rights and one of his appointees to the State Judicial Nominating Commission. Branstad also needs to fill one more vacancy on the state Environmental Protection Commission. He withdrew one of his nominees to that body after the Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter pointed out the governor’s choices would leave the commission with too many Republican members.

UPDATE: Branstad nominated Nancy Couser for the last open spot on the Environmental Protection Commission. She is a cattle feeder from rural Nevada who also serves on the Iowa Beef Industry Council.  

Press release from Governor Branstad’s office, April 27:

Gov. Branstad: Paul Trombino named Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry E. Branstad today announced that Paul Trombino III, P.E. will serve as the Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation.

“I am pleased to announce that Paul Trombino, an individual with expertise in both the private and public sector, will serve as Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation,” said Branstad. “Paul’s energy, passion for the job and diverse experience within all facets of transportation will serve him well as he leads the Iowa Department of Transportation.”

Trombino is currently the Bureau Director of Transit, Local Roads, Rails, and Harbors for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation where he administers planning, program funding and projects throughout the state.

“I want to thank Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds for giving me the opportunity to serve the people of Iowa in this capacity,” said Trombino. “I will work tirelessly to move the Iowa DOT forward with its more than 3,000 employees.”

The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) is charged with overseeing the use of over 9,000 miles of roads and 4,000 bridges, leading the motor vehicle division, managing Iowa’s aviation, rail and public transit systems, and planning for Iowa’s transportation future, which plays an important part of the Iowa economy.

Trombino previously served as the Region Operations Director of the Wisconsin DOT until 2011 when he took his current position as a Bureau Director. As Region Operations Director, Trombino managed over 1,100 state employees that worked on an over $1 billion highway construction program. Trombino has also worked for the Wisconsin DOT as Bureau Director of Structures, Proposal Manager, and as a Senior Project Manager for Earth Tech in Southeast Wisconsin.

Trombino holds a Bachelor’s of Science degrees in Civil Engineering with Tau Beta Pi Honors from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Paul and his wife, Trish, have two children, Enzo and Mila.

Following the November 2010 election, Gov. Branstad asked current Director, Nancy Richardson, to continue in her role through the 2011 legislative session. Director Richardson will be retiring on Thursday, April 28.

Trombino’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. He will start on May 9, 2011.

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