Moon Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, seems almost tailor-made for his presidential assignment as secretary of housing and urban development. Landrieu thrives on controversy - often causing it as well - and he will find it at HUD and in the massive social programs he is to oversee, assuming, of course, that he is confirmed by the Senate.

Landrieu is the quintessential southern political creature, which is bound to benefit him in the clangorous HUD jungle of clashing political and social thought surrounding urban programs.

He knows the nation's mayors and he understands the workings of city hall, having been chief executive of New Orleans for eight years (1970-1978), president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (1975) and a champion of federal aid to the cities.

And as a Cabinet official whose actions will have a sharp and direct impact on the nation's minorities, Landrieu has a record as a politician who put race to rest as issue during his elective life in Louisiana.

Landrieu (at home, it's pronounced LAN-droo), 49, father of nine children, was born as Maurice Edwin Landrieu in New Orleans. As a child, he was nicknamed Moon. As a pitcher on the Loyola University baseball team he remained Moon.

He took Moon as his official first name when he ran for mayor, a political step that followed earlier terms as a Louisiana state representative (1960-1966) and as councilman-at-large on the city council (1966-1970).

Since leaving city hall last year, he has been president of a real estate company with large commercial ventures in the downtown area he helped rejuvenate as mayor.

Throughout his political life in Louisiana, Landrieu was on the front edge of controversy. He was one of a few state legislators who opposed Gov. Jimmie Davis' segregationist bills during a school racial crisis in New Orleans in the early 1960s.

As tempers calmed later on in his hometown, his credential was established - winning the at-large council seat. Blacks supported his race for mayor, and he moved quickly to put blacks on key city jobs, including that of chief administrative officer, the top appointive spot.

His eight years as mayor were rife with criticism, but Landrieu somehow stayed just out of the grasp of the political wolves.

The biggest uproar was over his promotion of the $163.5 million Superdome as part of a downtown revival project. Criticism raged over financing and management oddities.

Landrieu also pushed redevelopment and preservation work in the city's storied French Quarter - projects that drew sniping, but which reversed declined and brought a commercial and tourist boom.

His style in dealing with the critics was to be sometimes curt, sometimes short-tempered, but rarely deterred. Whether that will fly in Washington is another thing, but at least this can be said:

In his farewell news conference as mayor, Landrieu apologized for any misunderstandings his sharp tongue might have caused.