BATON ROUGE, La. (KPEL News) - Governor John Bel Edwards has accepted the retirement of Secretary Shawn Wilson as head of the Department of Transportation and Development, paving the way for Wilson to launch an expected bid to succeed Edwards as governor.

Wilson has been serving as head of DOTD for more than seven years and has been with the department for 16 years.

Shawn Wilson

“Dr. Shawn Wilson has been the most effective DOTD secretary in state history,” Edwards said in a statement. “Despite tremendous challenges with state revenue, devastating hurricanes, and the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19 on our workforce and supply chain, Shawn has tackled important infrastructure projects that were previously only talked and dreamed about for decades."

"From the biggest, most high-profile projects along major interstates to less glamorous but equally important rural infrastructure," Edwards added, "he has worked tirelessly to unleash our economic potential and improve quality of life for everyone in our state by making major improvements to our roads, bridges, ports, rail system, flood control, and more."

During his tenure as Secretary, the state "invested nearly $5.5 billion in infrastructure projects around the state consisting of more than 2,230 projects compiling nearly 7,000 miles of improvements," Edwards' office notes. Those projects include the Calcasieu River Bridge, the Barksdale Interchange, and the widening of I-10.

Running for Governor?

It's long been suspected that Wilson was preparing for a bid for governor. LaPolitics publisher Jeremy Alford has noted in the past that Wilson has played coy when asked about the possibility of running back in October.

Will Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson run for governor next year? Right now the answer seems be a solid maybe.

"I’m not ready to say it’s not true," Wilson told LaPolitics in a brief interview this morning.

A registered Democrat with a Ph.D. in public policy, Wilson was born and raised in New Orleans, but calls Lafayette home these days. Should he actually enter the race for governor, he would become the first declared Black candidate.

Aside from possibly having access to the political apparatus of Gov. John Bel EdwardsWilson currently oversees a department that works with stakeholders, like contractors and engineers, who also happen to be among the state’s top donors.

If Wilson were to declare, he would be the only Democratic candidate in the race so far, taking on a handful of Republicans.

Leaving his role as Secretary of DOTD leaves him available to run a campaign full-time, a useful scenario for someone who would be running as a Democrat in a deep red state.

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