President-elect Joe Biden on Friday tapped Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to head the Department of Commerce, an agency that will take a leading role in his administration’s priority issues around the economy, environment and climate.
Raimondo, 49, born and raised in Rhode Island, is the state’s first female governor. With a background in the financial industry, she is seen as firmly in the centrist wing of the Democratic party, despite Republican critics’ contentions that the state has been less business-friendly under her administration.
As secretary of Commerce, Raimondo’s portfolio includes agencies like the National Marine Fisheries Service and weather and climate science groups. She will be at the forefront of the Biden administration’s policies on trade.
She is a “daughter of a working-class family who knows what it was like to have a job shipped off to China,” Biden said Friday at a press conference in Wilmington, Del. He called Raimondo “one of the most effective, forward-looking governors in the United States,” who has “put Rhode Island on the path to achieving 100 percent renewable energy.”
Raimondo and her allies have ardently pursued offshore wind energy as a growth industry for Rhode Island, where the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm was built in 2016 as a commercial-scale pilot project.
That established the state as a base for wind power support services. Blount Boats in Warren, R.I., built the first U.S.-flag crew transfer vessels, operated by Atlantic Wind Transfers in North Kingston, R.I., setting the stage for the state to be a major base for wind development off southern New England.
That’s also raised conflicts with the state’s commercial fishing industry – particularly the squid fleet, where captains say proposed turbine arrays could utterly disrupt their fishing patterns. National advocates for the fishing industry praised the choice of Raimondo, while calling for her to steer a path that will allow both industries to co-exist.
“In light of the increasing number of proposed actions in our federal waters, we sincerely hope Governor Raimondo’s experience working with the commercial fishing industry in Rhode Island will guide her in ensuring our businesses continue to thrive,” said Leigh Habegger, executive director of the Seafood Harvesters of America, in a statement late Thursday as news emerged that Raimondo would be Biden’s choice.
“In particular, her leadership on the Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) will be useful as the Commerce Department navigates ambitious offshore wind goals. We look forward to her swift confirmation and working with Ms. Raimondo and the Department of Commerce on ensuring that our commercial fishermen have a seat at the table during these, and other fisheries management, discussions,” said Habegger.
“It is my sincere hope that Governor Raimondo carries with her the experiences and lessons learned from her time in Rhode Island,” said Christopher Brown, a Rhode Island captain and founding president of Seafood Harvesters of America.
Raimondo “will have to find a harmonious existence for both the fishing industry and the offshore wind industry. Hopefully her time in Rhode Island has granted her the wisdom to make sound choices to ensure the delivery of both,” said Brown. ‘I hope that the commercial industry doesn't become collateral damage of greater blind ambition.”