RICHMOND, March 7 -- Virginia Transportation Secretary Whittington W. Clement said Monday that he will resign from Gov. Mark R. Warner's Cabinet by the end of the month to practice at a Richmond law firm.
Clement, 57, is the second member to leave as the Democratic governor's four-year term winds down. Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Warner, said no decision had been made about a successor.
Whittington W. Clement will work at Richmond law firm Hunton & Williams.
In an interview from Georgia, where he is vacationing with his family, Clement said he is proud of the administration's efforts to rebuild the Transportation Department's reputation. When Clement took over in 2002, it was mired in management and cash-flow problems.
"It's not fixed, but we've spent three years replacing politics with professionalism," said Clement, who served seven terms as a Democrat in the House of Delegates before joining Warner's Cabinet.
He said that despite approval this year of $848 million for roads and transit, the state has yet to confront the need for a steady stream of revenue to pay for the transportation projects demanded by its growing population.
"I don't know what kind of tax increase could attract the most political support," he said. "But if we want to continue to have a vibrant economy and a high quality of life, that serious discussion is going to have to occur in the near future."
That debate probably will be at the heart of the campaigns for governor this year. And leaders in the Republican-controlled Senate have signaled that they plan to make transportation funding -- and the possibility of a major tax increase to build roads, bridges and rail lines -- the main issue in next year's General Assembly session.
Warner, also on vacation this week, praised the outgoing secretary.
"Secretary Clement has helped us restore fiscal reality and sound planning to the unrealistic transportation 'wish list' we inherited," Warner said in a statement. "His credibility with the legislature helped us push for new approaches to Virginia's transportation challenges, such as public-private partnerships, greater local control over road projects, and dedicated funding for transit and passenger rail."
Advocates for the transportation industry lauded Clement for creating an environment in which transportation planning was predictable.
"Before, you were promised a lot that couldn't be achieved. At least now, you are told what can be done factually," said Richard D. Daugherity III, chief lobbyist for the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance.
Clement's planned departure was first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Monday and follows the resignation of Technology Secretary George C. Newstrom in the fall.
In a statement, partners at Richmond-based Hunton & Williams, a lobbying and consulting law firm, said Clement will focus primarily on transportation and other infrastructure matters in the state.
Clement said he had told Warner that he would serve a maximum of three years. "I have done more than that," he said. "It's a good time to stop."
Longtime political observers said Warner could pick Deputy Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer to fill out the term until Warner leaves office. Or he could pick John A. "Jack" Rollison III, a former Republican delegate whom Warner appointed as a special assistant to the transportation commissioner.