Obama Announces Picks for MSHA Head, U.S. Fire Administrator

On Monday, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate 10 individuals for key posts in his administration, including Joseph A. Main as assistant secretary of the Mine Safety & Health Administration and Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin James Cochran as U.S. fire administrator within the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The president's picks for other positions include Daniel R. Elliott, III, as chairman of the Surface Transportation Board and Joseph G. Pizarchik as director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, within the Department of the Interior.

According to the White House press secretary, Main got the nod for the MSHA post because of his "vast mine health safety experience in the U.S." and his international recognition as an expert in mining health issues. A native of Greene County, Pa., now residing in Spotsylvania, Va., Main began working in coal mines in 1967 and quickly became an advocate for miner safety as a union safety committeeman as well as serving in various local union positions in the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), the press secretary said. A graduate of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, Main was employed by UMWA in 1974 as a Special Assistant to the International President, and joined the UMWA Safety Division in 1976, serving as safety inspector, administrative assistant, and deputy director. In 1982 he was appointed administrator of the UMWA Occupational Health and Safety Department, a position he held for 22 years, managing the international health and safety program and staff. According to the White House, he has considerable hands-on experience inspecting and evaluating mining conditions, plans, and systems and currently works as a self-employed mine safety consultant. His recent work has focused on international mine safety, research, and analysis projects on preventing mining accidents, and development of training programs and facilities to prepare miners and emergency responders for mine emergencies.

The press secretary said Obama likewise chose Cochran for the U.S. Fire Administrator post for his breadth of experience, having over the course of 28 years served in all phases of the fire service, from firefighter to assistant chief training officer to fire chief of Shreveport, La., before becoming Atlanta's chief. In these various roles Cochran has had involvement in firefighting, emergency medical services, hazardous materials, recruiting, public education, research and development, employee counseling, discipline, performance evaluation, and administration, with specialization in training and strategic planning/facilitating. He also has served as the first vice president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), President of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, and Vice Chairman of Volunteers of America (VOA).

Other nominees announced Monday include the following:

  • John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and Economic Development Administration Administrator, Department of Commerce
  • Anthony Marion Babauta, Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, Department of the Interior
  • Alexa E. Posny, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Department of Education
  • Christopher P. Bertram, Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Transportation
  • Terry A. Yonkers, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations and Environment, Department of the Air Force, Department of Defense
  • Patricia D. Cahill, Member of the Board of Directors, Corporation for Public Broadcasting

"Each of these individuals brings with them valuable expertise in their respective fields, and I am grateful for their decision to serve in my administration," Obama said. "They will be important additions to our team as we work to guide this country back on the path to prosperity, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead."

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