WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar is resigning from President Obama’s Cabinet and will return home to Colorado by the end of March.
His impending departure, announced Jan. 16, follows that of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solís, who returned to her native California Jan. 23.
Their decisions leave President Obama’s Cabinet bare of Hispanics. Both joined it in the early weeks of his first term and were generally praised for their leadership and vision.
The resignations place pressure on Obama to name quickly at least two Hispanics to his second-term team. He is under fire for his nominations of white males for three top Cabinet posts: John Kerry as secretary of state, Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense and Jack Lew for treasury secretary.
Among Hispanics reportedly under consideration to replace Solís or be offered other Cabinet-level options is Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who will be term-limited out of that job this year.
“Wish lists” submitted by Latino organizations of Cabinet-caliber candidates include former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, astronaut José Hernández, U.S. Reps. Linda Sánchez, Xavier Becerra and Raúl Grijalva and Assistant Attorney General Thomas Pérez.
In accepting Salazar’s resignation, Obama praised him for “helping usher in a new era of conservation for our nation’s land, water and wildlife” and making “historical strides strengthening our nation-to-nation relationship with Indian Country.”
He made the personal point, “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.”
Salazar has worked on new energy, wildlife and environmental conservation. He is most noted for the moratorium of offshore drilling following the April 2012 British Patroleum spill. Since 2009, Interior has authorized 34 solar, wind and geothermal energy projects on public land. He also oversaw the establishment of the first program for offshore wind leasing.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairman Rubén Hinojosa of Texas tacked on the postscript, “Secretary Salazar has been a tireless advocate for our country’s natural resources and our national park system, bringing about a new era of commitment to renewable energy.
One of his major accomplishments for the Hispanic community was his work toward the establishment of César Estrada Chávez National Monument in Keene, California.”
Editor’s note: This story was previously published on Hispanic Link.