President Barack Obama lost another key U.S. Hispanic from his Cabinet today. Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior since January 2009, announced this morning that he is returning to his home state of Colorado after fulfilling four years of service to the Democratic president.
"Colorado is and will always be my home," Mr. Salazar said in an official statement announcing his resignation as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. "I look forward to returning to my family and Colorado after eight years in Washington, D.C. I am forever grateful to President Obama for his friendship in the U.S. Senate and the opportunity he gave me to serve as a member of his cabinet during this historic presidency."
A Colorado native who attended state college and went on to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from the University of Michigan Law School, Mr. Salazar practiced private law prior to entering politics. As Director of Colorado's Dept. of Natural Resources, he was a member of former Gov. Roy Romer's cabinet and twice was elected to serve as Colorado's Attorney General.
In an official online statement from the White House, President Obama thanked the Secretary for "his hard work and leadership on behalf of the American people."
As an extremely qualified candidate for the U.S. Secretary of the Interior position, Mr. Salazar's appointment to President Obama's cabinet marked a seminal moment for U.S. Hispanics. Along with his management experience in Interior-related governance, law credentials and eight years of service as Colorado's attorney general, Salazar was elected to and served in the U.S. Senate prior to his appointment.
A Democrat, Salazar defeated Coors Brewing Co. executive Pete Coors for the U.S. Senate in 2004.
Considered a moderate, Salazar opposed -- as U.S. Senator -- an amendment to repeal tax dispensations for Exxon-Mobile.
"As the Secretary of the Interior," President Obama's statement continued, "Ken has helped usher in a new era of conservation for our nation's land, water, and wildlife. Ken has played an integral role in my Administration's successful efforts to expand responsible development of our nation's domestic energy resources. In his work to promote renewable energy projects on our public lands and increase the development of oil and gas production, Ken has ensured that the Department's decisions are driven by the best science and promote the highest safety standards."
In a tone that seemed to reflect the president's sincere affection for Mr. Salazar, Obama stated, "I have valued Ken's friendship since we both entered the Senate in 2005, and I look forward to receiving his counsel even after he returns to his home state of Colorado."
For his part, Mr. Salazar's resignation statement after four years of relatively noncontroversial service was cordial and businesslike.
"I have had the privilege of reforming the Department of the Interior to help lead the United States in securing a new energy frontier, ushering in a conservation agenda for the 21st century, and honoring our word to the nation's first Americans," Salazar stated.
Congressman Ruben Hinojosa of Texas praised the Secretary as "a tireless advocate for our country's natural resources and our national park system, bringing about a new era of commitment to renewable energy."
Hinojosa, a Democrat, continued, "I consider Sec. Salazar a good friend and though I am sad to see such a talented and dedicated public servant leave the administration, I still look forward to working with him in future endeavors."
For the full text of Ken Salazar's statement see: "Sec. Salazar to Return Home to Colorado"
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