President Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Highway Administration has withdrawn from consideration for the post, a surprising development given his widespread support and qualifications, the U.S. Department of Transportation confirmed Dec. 11.
A DOT spokesperson said that Paul Trombino III was stepping away from the federal appointment for family reasons. Trombino told colleagues in an email Dec. 8 that he had decided to stay in Iowa to take care of his ailing father, whose condition has recently deteriorated.
Trump announced Trombino’s nomination in September, and he received bipartisan support. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee endorsed Trombino in October, with members calling the 51-year-old a talented administrator who would help rebuild the nation’s highways. He had been awaiting a vote from the full chamber to lead the agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation, which that has a $44 billion annual highway aid budget and 3,000 employees.
Trombino was a favorite of road builders who successfully helped push for Iowa’s 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase in 2015. The Wisconsin native had spent most of his career at the Wisconsin DOT as an engineer and administrator. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad picked him to run the Iowa DOT in 2011 and he was considered a visionary leader fluent in everything from self-driving cars to shipping policy. Trombino served as president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials for 2015-2016, a prestigious position in the field.
Trombino surprised Iowa officials when he announced plans to step down the day after the November 2016 presidential election, saying he wanted to look for jobs in the private sector. He soon became president of McClure Engineering Company, an Iowa-based firm.
He told employees in an email Dec. 8 that he intends to stay there, saying he looked forward to continuing to work with their “wonderful team.”
“After many conversations with my family, we have decided that it is best that I withdraw from the nomination process,” he wrote. “Iowa is my home and I need to be here for what likely will be the last two years or less of my father’s life.”