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Mel Martínez: 1947—: Cabinet Secretary Biography

Cuban Refugee, Helped Bush Win Florida, Pledged To Fulfill Hud Aims

Mel Martínez: 1947—: Cabinet secretary.

In January of 2001 Mel R. Martínez became the first American of Cuban heritage to hold a Cabinet post. Martínez was named Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by President George W. Bush, an appointment that signaled the emergence of Florida's strongly Republican Cuban-American community as a significant political force. Martínez, a well-liked county executive from Florida, was considered one of the wisest choices among the Bush Administration cabinet nominees. "In one fell swoop," observed Los Angeles Times writer Geraldine Baum, "Bush effectively paid a debt to Cuban Americans who supported him during the postelection debacle in Florida, was able to elevate a Latino with a dramatic immigrant story and succeeded in promoting someone who—although he lacks experience in the public housing arena—has been in the thick of governing the fastest-growing community in the country."

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