James A. Baker III will speak at WasteExpo 2001's grand opening in Chicago on April 3, replacing retired General Colin Powell, who was confirmed as U.S. Secretary of State in January.
Most recently in the spotlight representing President George W. Bush's campaign in a heated battle for the White House, Baker has served in senior government positions under three U.S. presidents.
"James Baker was our first choice," says Show Director Rita Ugianskis, who worked with the Alexandria, Va.-based Washington Speakers Bureau in anticipation of the change. "Given Baker's new popularity, he's in tremendous demand. We were nervous because he has turned down other invitations to speak."
General session sponsor McNeilus Co., Dodge Center, Minn., also was intimately involved in choosing the speaker to open WasteExpo.
"We were looking for someone who was timely," says McNeilus' Advertising Director Jeffrey Swertfeger. "There's been a lot of turmoil, and Baker has been able to weather the storm and handle himself as a statesman."
Swertfeger hopes Baker's ability to navigate difficult times will inspire waste industry leaders who have faced an era of upheaval, mergers and acquisitions.
Appointed the nation's 61st secretary of state under President George Bush Sr., Baker also served under President Ronald Reagan, first as White House chief of staff and later as treasury secretary. But his career in public service began in 1975, when he served under President Gerald Ford as under secretary of commerce.
Also active behind the scenes, Baker led five consecutive presidential campaigns for the Republican Party between 1976 and 1992.
Although no longer in public office, Baker was appointed in 1997 as personal envoy to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to mediate talks in a dispute over the Western Sahara.
Currently, Baker is a senior partner at the Houston-based law firm of Baker Botts and senior counselor to The Carlyle Group, a Washington, D.C., merchant-banking firm. He also serves as honorary chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, Houston.
Born in Houston in 1930, Baker has eight children and 14 grandchildren.