WASHINGTON -- Norman Y. Mineta, the only Democrat in President Bush's Cabinet, has resigned as secretary of transportation, the White House said yesterday.
In a letter to Bush, Mineta, 74, said that after "five productive and memorable years, it is time for me to move on to other challenges." Mineta became the first Asian-American to serve in a White House Cabinet when President Bill Clinton named him secretary of commerce in Clinton's final year in office. Mineta stayed on in the Bush administration to work on transportation, an interest of his during a 30-year career in Congress.
His departure leaves only two secretaries from the original Bush Cabinet still in place: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. In a capital riven by partisan divisiveness, Mineta was fond of saying, "There are no Democratic or Republican highways, no such thing as Republican or Democratic traffic congestion."
Mineta was at the helm of the Transportation Department on Sept. 11, 2001, overseeing the chaos that resulted when all civilian planes were grounded for the first time in the nation's history. In a written statement yesterday, Bush said Mineta preformed "a crucial role" that day.