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Bush to name Parker grad as HUD chief

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Gazette Staff
April 18, 2008
— President Bush has chosen a Janesville Parker graduate to take over as head of the government’s housing agency at a time of deep crisis in the industry, administration officials said today.

If confirmed by the Senate, Steve Preston would replace HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, who announced his resignation last month amid allegations of political favoritism and a criminal investigation. Jackson’s last day on the job was to be today.


Bush was to nominate Preston, the current administrator of the Small Business Administration, at midday before going to Camp David.


A 1978 Parker graduate, Preston focused on military pension reform in the school’s acclaimed Washington Seminar program. In Janesville, he also attended Washington Elementary and Franklin Junior High.


While Preston no longer has family in Janesville, he told The Janesville Gazette in 2006 that he hasn’t forgotten his roots.


“I remember a great sense of neighborhood and growing up in Janesville,” he said. “I had some great teachers and advisers at Parker, especially John Eyster, who ran the Washington Seminar program.


“I think about those teachers all the time. Their dedication was wonderful, and they had a tremendous opportunity to shape and guide people. As a junior and senior, I had teachers and advisers that helped point me in the right direction.”


That direction is now apparently pointed at HUD, where Jackson leaves behind the wreckage of a national housing crisis and a trail of unanswered questions about whether he tilted the Housing and Urban Development Department toward Republican contractors and cronies.


Preston will take over the agency at a time of chaos in the housing market. Foreclosures have surged to record highs as rising interest rates and the collapse of the once high-flying housing market have made it impossible for some to afford their monthly mortgage payments or sell their homes.


The administration has taken some steps to provide relief to millions of people at risk of losing their homes. However, Democrats on Capitol Hill insist more needs to be done and have been moving ahead on additional rescue plans.


A poll released Monday said one in seven mortgage holders worry they may soon fail to make their monthly payments, and even more fret that their home’s value is shrinking. The Associated Press-AOL Money & Finance poll also found that 60 percent said they definitely won’t a buy a home in the next two years. That was up from 53 percent who said so in an AP-AOL poll in September 2006. Only 11 percent are certain or very likely to buy soon, down from 15 percent two years ago.


Preston was sworn in as head of the Small Business Administration in July 2006, after the Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination. Bush was expected to praise him as an effective manager and problem-solver who can take on complex challenges, officials said. Preston’s selection was first reported by National Journal’s CongressDaily.


Preston has a background of 25 years in financial and operational leadership positions. Before joining SBA, he was executive vice president of The ServiceMaster Co., where he also served as chief financial officer. Before that, he was a senior vice president and treasurer of First Data Corp. and an investment banker at Lehman Brothers.



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