All roads have been leading to Connecticut lately as President Obama has sought top talent for his administration. Among key Presidential appointments announced by the White House last week was Linda Spoonster Schwartz, as nominee for Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Policy and Planning, in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Schwartz is the fourth Connecticut resident and second who previously led a Connecticut agency, to be nominated recently by President Obama.
Linda Schwartz, a disabled veteran, has led the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs through Republican and Democratic administrations since 2003. She concurrently serves as an Associate Clinical Professor of Nursing at the Yale School of Nursing, where she has been on Faculty since 1999 and was appointed Associate Research Scientist and Scholar. From 1980 to 1993, she taught at several University and College Schools of Nursing and held leadership roles in Nursing organizations in Connecticut. Her nomination was sent to the Senate for confirmation on Aug. 1.
Dr. Jo Handelsman is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Frederick Phineas Rose Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University, a position she has held since 2010. Previously, she served on the University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty as a Professor in Plant Pathology from 1985 to 2009 and Professor and Chair of the Department of Bacteriology from 2007 to 2009.
“The extraordinary dedication these individuals bring to their new roles will greatly serve the American people. I am grateful they have agreed to serve in this Administration and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come,” President Obama said in the formal announcement.
On July 17, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Gina McCarthy as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy, whose nomination was held up for a time amidst political wrangling in Congress, has served as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection prior to heading to Washington to join the EPA as assistant administrator earlier in the administration. McCarthy, is a 25-year veteran of state and local government in New England where she worked for Republicans including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell.
The Boston Globe reported that the newly confirmed McCarthy told an audience at Harvard Law School that cutting carbon pollution will “feed the economic agenda of this country” and vowed to work with industry leaders on shaping policies aimed at curbing global warming.
In June, the President nominated James B. Comey, Jr., of Westport, to be Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a term of ten years. Comey was confirmed as the seventh director of the FBI on July 29 by a vote of 93-1 in the Senate. He served in the Justice Department official in the Bush administration.
“To know Jim Comey is also to know his fierce independence and his deep integrity,” Obama said in making the nomination. “He’s that rarity in Washington sometimes: He doesn’t care about politics, he only cares about getting the job done. At key moments, when it’s mattered most, he joined Bob in standing up for what he believed was right.”
Before serving as deputy attorney general, Comey was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he helped bring down the Gambino crime family, and served as the managing assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the Richmond Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia, according to news reports.
Handelsman is currently President of the American Society for Microbiology. In 2011, Dr. Handelsman received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring. From 2002 to 2010, Dr. Handelsman was the Director of the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching. In 2004, Dr. Handelsman co-founded the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology. She received a B.S. from Cornell University and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Handelsman will help advise President Barack Obama on the impact of science on both international and domestic affairs. “This is an enormous opportunity that I felt I just could not pass up,” she told the Yale News.
“In addition to being a superb biologist, Jo Handelsman is nationally recognized as an exceptional mentor of young scientists and an effective champion for increasing diversity in the scientific work force,” Steven Girvin, deputy provost for science & technology at Yale told the News. “Her energetic devotion to improving science education is of critical importance to the nation.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal released a statement calling Schwartz "a champion of veterans and a national star." From 1979 to 1980, Schwartz was a caseworker in the Office of the Field Director of the American Red Cross at Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany. Dr. Schwartz served in the United States Air Force (USAF) Nurse Corps from 1968 to 1986, both on Active Duty and as a Reservist. She retired as a Flight Nurse Instructor, with the rank of Major after sustaining injuries in a USAF Air Craft accident.
In 2001, she served on the Board of Directors of the American Nurses Association and was elected to the American Academy of Nursing. From 1996 to 2000, she served as a Member and Chair of the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans. She received a B.S. from the University of Maryland, an MSN from Yale University School of Nursing, and a Dr.P.H from the Yale University School of Medicine.