Homeland Security Chief Ridge resigns - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Homeland Security Chief Ridge resigns

(Washington-AP) Nov. 30, 2004 - Tom Ridge says after 22 years of public service, he wants to focus on "personal and family matters" like going to his son's rugby games.
     
The Homeland Security chief calls his resignation "a very difficult decision." He says he'll "always be grateful" for President Bush's call to service.
     
Ridge says his department has "accomplished a great deal in a short period of time" -- citing improvements in security, port safety and public-private partnerships on the state and local level. But he says there's more to be done.
 
He submitted a formal resignation letter to Bush on Tuesday. He also sent an e-mail to the roughly 180,000 people with whom Ridge says he's been "privileged" to work. He says he plans to stay put through February 1st, unless his successor is confirmed by the Senate before that.
     
Ridge's name has become synonymous with the color-coded terror alerts and tutorials for Americans on how to prepare for a possible attack. The Homeland Security chief has presided over six national "orange alerts," when the government boosted security out of concern an attack could be coming. But terrorists never struck on his watch.
     
He dodged criticism that he used terror warnings to boost President Bush's support leading up to the election.
     
Ridge became the first White House homeland security adviser a month after 9-11. Then Congress established the Homeland Security Department -- merging 180,000 employees from 22 agencies. Ridge became that department's Cabinet-level secretary in January 2003.
     
In earlier years, he served in Vietnam, earned a law degree and was re-elected to Congress five times from Pennsylvania. Ridge was governor of that state until 2001, when the White House called.

The move is a bit of a surprise after the White House announced earlier in November that Ridge was staying. There's already speculation about who his replacement might be. Among the possible candidates mentioned is Bernard Kerik, the interim minister of the interior for Iraq. Other names include FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh, EPA chief Mike Leavitt and White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend.

Ridge becomes the seventh cabinet member to resign since the election. A White House spokesman insists it's nothing more than second term turnover.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann Venneman, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Don Evans have already resigned.

The administration named National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to succeed Powell and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to take the place of Ashcroft. On Monday President Bush nominated Carlos Gutierrez, chief executive officer of Kellogg, to become the next commerce secretary.

Updated 4:39pm by Chris Rees

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