Honoring Norman Mineta

The outpouring of memories and tributes for Norman Mineta this week rightly focused on his tremendous imprint – not just across the transportation space, but in so many aspects of American life and history. The accounts of his astounding resume, pioneering leadership, and inspirational story illustrate how his work, life, and legacy touched many people deeply.

Here at Eno, we knew Norm well. He dedicated years to this organization as a member of our Board of Directors, a substantive expert on transportation finance, and professional mentor. For an organization focused on relevance and impact, it was a perfect relationship. Some of Norm’s impact was thrust upon him (such as his strong leadership in the wake of the 9/11 attacks) and some from his own notable achievements (helping craft the landmark Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.)

After serving in Congress for nearly two decades, Norm joined Eno’s Board 1996. In 2000 he was tapped to serve in the Administration, first as Secretary of Commerce, and then Secretary of Transportation. He has the distinction of being the first Asian-American cabinet member, and longest-serving transportation secretary. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. After leaving the federal government, Norm rejoined the Eno Board and served until 2020 when he became our first-ever Member Emeritus.

In 2010, Norm became the inaugural recipient of Eno’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The award honors individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership throughout their career in transportation. Most notably, their contributions – both in theory and on-the-ground – changed the transportation industry for the better.

To honor his outstanding legacy, the recognition will henceforth be known as Eno’s Mineta Award for Lifetime Achievement in Transportation. Current Eno Board Chair and former U.S. Transportation Secretary Jim Burnley noted that “Norm’s mark on transportation policy and practice is unmatched. It is no small task to serve with such distinction at the highest levels of both the Executive and Legislative branches. Given his years of service to Eno, and the countless lives he’s affected, it is our privilege to name this award for our longtime partner and friend.”

From the myriad reflections about Norm’s life this week, his graciousness and integrity shine brightest. In this time of polarized hyperpartisanship in Washington, his ability to work across party lines is especially notable. Our Eno colleague Emil Frankel served under Secretary Mineta and praised, among other things, Norm’s adroitness as a consensus builder.

We are lucky to have known him, and all of us are fortunate he dedicated his life to public service – or as he so clearly put it, “I was doing things to help people.” For those of us committed to keeping Norm Mineta’s legacy alive, it does not have to be more complicated than that.

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