LaHood steps down as transportation secretary

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today he will not serve a second term in the White House.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will not serve out a second term in the White House, he announced this morning, marking the departure of the last Republican cabinet member from President Obama's first term.

In an email announcing his resignation to Transportation Department employees, LaHood said it had been "an honor and a privilege to lead the Department," and that he plans to stay on until his successor has been confirmed.

"I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity," LaHood said in the email. "As I look back on the past four years, I am proud of what we have accomplished together in so many important areas. But what I am most proud of is the DOT [Department of Transportation] team. You exemplify the best of public service, and I truly appreciate all that you have done to make America better, to make your communities better, and to make DOT better."

He pointed to programs like the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue as among the department's "significant" achievements during his tenure, as well as "great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows."

"I've told President Obama, and I've told many of you, that this is the best job I've ever had," LaHood added. "I'm grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of you and I'm confident that DOT will continue to achieve great things in the future."

In a statement responding to the announcement, Mr. Obama lauded LaHood for "his dedication, his hard work, and his years of service to the American people - including the outstanding work he's done over the last four years as Secretary of Transportation."

But he also thanked LaHood "for his friendship."

"Years ago, we were drawn together by a shared belief that those of us in public service owe an allegiance not to party or faction, but to the people we were elected to represent," Mr. Obama said. "And Ray has never wavered in that belief.... Under his leadership, we have made significant investments in our passenger rail system and laid the groundwork for the high-speed rail network of the future. And every American who travels by air, rail or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safer and stronger."

"I am grateful to Ray for everything he's done, and I wish him only the best going forward," he added.

LaHood served as a Republican congressman from Illinois for 14 years before becoming Mr. Obama's transportation secretary in 2009, continuing a recent tradition of presidents reaching across the aisle for cabinet members.

Mr. Obama has nominated former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and, if confirmed, he would be the lone Republican in the president's current cabinet.