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Read the official bio of Federico Pena.

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Pena Moves to Energy Post

By Randolph E. Schmid
Associated Press Writer
Friday, December 20, 1996; 1:01 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In tapping outgoing Transportation Secretary Federico Pena to take over the Energy Department, President Clinton gets more than just Hispanic representation on his Cabinet. Pena has a reputation as a strong manager and reformer, a fast learner willing to take on a challenge.

In three years at Transportation, the former Denver mayor pushed through a remodeling of the troubled Federal Aviation Administration, winning congressional approval for the agency to develop its own hiring and purchasing rules to speed up change.

Pena also negotiated international aviation agreements with 41 nations during his term, pressing for increased freedom for airlines to serve markets. He also cut the size of the Transportation Department by some 11,000 employees.

But Pena drew fire for his defense of the safety of ValuJet after that airline's crash in the Florida Everglades in May that killed 110 people. And some critics found him too eager to promote the aviation industry, although he also pressed through changes in regulations bringing commuter airlines under the same strict safety rules that apply to large carriers.

When Pena originally announced his plan to leave office, he said White House chief of staff Leon Panetta had asked him to remain or consider other positions, "but we decided it was best for us to move on to the next phase of our lives."

As Denver mayor, Pena had pressed through major public works projects including construction of the city's new airport.

He was born in Laredo, Texas, on March 15, 1947, and is a graduate of the University of Texas where he also won a law degree. He then moved to Denver where he formed a law partnership with his brother, Alfredo.

In 1978 he won a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives and became minority speaker in 1980. In 1983, he ousted 14-year mayor William McNichols.

Pena did not seek a third term in 1991, founding a pension management company after leaving office. In 1992, he headed Clinton's transition team on transportation issues and later accepted the post as transportation secretary.

© Copyright 1996 The Associated Press

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