Lone Democrat in Bush Cabinet Is Departing
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, who oversaw the tightening of airport security after the 2001 terrorist attacks and is the lone Democrat in President Bush's Cabinet, will step down early next month, the White House announced yesterday.
In a letter to President Bush, Mineta said that the decision to resign was a difficult one but that it is "time for me to move on to other challenges."
Mineta, 74, has battled serious back problems in recent years and was forced to telecommute from his hospital bed for five months after undergoing back surgery in late 2002. Associates said doctors worried that Mineta might never walk again.
Robert Johnson, Mineta's spokesman, said health problems did not drive Mineta from the job. The secretary has been routinely working 18-hour days and often goes sailing in a boat he docks behind his Annapolis house, Johnson said.
"He's in excellent condition," Johnson said, adding that Mineta has not decided what to do next. "He wants to pursue other challenges and believes this is a good time to do that."
Mineta is scheduled to leave the 60,000-person department on July 7.
No successor has been named. Deputy Secretary Maria Cino will take over the department until a new secretary is confirmed by the Senate.
President Bush's press secretary, Tony Snow, announced Mineta's resignation at a morning briefing. He told reporters that Mineta was "not being pushed out."
"As a matter of fact, the president and vice president and others were happy with him," Snow said. "He put in 5 1/2 years, and that's enough time."
In a statement, Bush touted Mineta's tenure and touched on the secretary's compelling personal history.
Mineta and his family were interred with other Japanese Americans during World War II. He served in the Army, as mayor of San Jose and in the House, where he represented his California congressional district for two decades.
"Norm's life is a story of determination, courage and service," Bush said.