WASHINGTON -- Jacqueline Glassman's father died in a car crash when she was 10 years old. Now she runs the federal agency that oversees motor vehicle safety.
Her family tragedy did not cause her to go to work for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Glassman says. But it adds meaning to her job, the acting NHTSA administrator told Automotive News in an interview this month.
"So many of us have family members" who are victims of vehicle crashes, Glassman said. She cites the nation's toll of 42,000 highway deaths a year.
"It affects all of us in a really strong way," she says. "It is certainly part of my history."
Before she joined NHTSA in 2002, Glassman was a lawyer for DaimlerChrysler.
The "acting" part of Glassman's title might suggest she's merely keeping a seat warm for NHTSA's next permanent head. However long her tenure lasts, she has a full agency agenda to handle.
3 critical rules
Glassman, 43, took NHTSA's reins in early September. She must oversee final adoption of three critical rules: new standards affecting roof crush, side-impact crashes and light-truck fuel economy for 2008-11.
A new transportation law includes fresh assignments for NHTSA. Glassman says her agency soon will launch rule-making on electronic stability control. And she must oversee the daily operations of a small but highly visible government body.
"The important thing for the agency is that we know what we need to do," Glassman says. "We're going to continue to work and achieve the results that we've been achieving in the past few years."
Glassman says she is not seeking President Bush's nomination to be the next agency chief. The permanent post requires Senate confirmation.
Glassman succeeded Dr. Jeffrey Runge, who left NHTSA's top post last summer to become chief medical officer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Glassman says she's pursuing Runge's priorities.
Runge recruited Glassman in 2002 from DaimlerChrysler AG, where she was senior counsel, to be NHTSA's chief counsel. He promoted her to deputy administrator.
Glassman says she sees no evidence that her industry background hinders her work with the full range of outside interests that care about NHTSA, including consumer safety groups.
But Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, last week said he's concerned. A former auto executive such as Glassman may not have a balanced view of safety issues, he said.
Ditlow said he hopes the agency does not go a long time without a permanent administrator. Acting chiefs don't have the authority they need, he said.
The early years
Glassman grew up in Southfield, Mich., a Detroit suburb. She says she knew early on that she wanted to be a lawyer, but didn't plan her career the way it has unfolded.
She received her undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and a law degree from Stanford University. She was in private law practice before she joined the former Chrysler Corp. in 1994.
Glassman, a registered Republican, says she likes cars but is not a fanatic. She enjoys reading, travel and golf.
Her work at Chrysler Corp. and DaimlerChrysler was not her only tie to the industry. Her mother worked at Ford Motor Co., mostly as a secretary, for nearly 30 years.
You may e-mail Harry Stoffer at [email protected]