Governor George W. Bush plans to resign as the top Texas executive Thursday, focusing his energy in full on his job as president-elect.
Sources close to Bush said that he planned to have his lieutenant governor, Rick Perry, take over his post.
The move away from Austin will allow Bush to dedicate himself to filling his cabinet posts in time for his January 20 inauguration as 43rd president of the United States.
Making a speedy comeback after the 36-day delay in winning the November 7 election, Bush announced three more cabinet members late Wednesday.
"Today I've named three outstanding Americans," Bush said of his most recent appointees -- Secretary of Agriculture-designate Ann Veneman, Secretary of Commerce-designate Don Evans, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development-designate Mel Martinez.
If approved by Congress, Ann Veneman will be the first woman to hold the post of secretary of agriculture.
The California native was co-president of the Bush-Cheney election campaign for California.
Veneman was a partner in a law firm before becoming the first woman to be appointed to the California Department of Food and Agriculture in 1995, directing until 1999 the state agency that oversees the largest agricultural economy in the United States.
In her acceptance speech, 51-year-old Veneman said "Agriculture is part of the fabric that makes America great. Our farmers feed and clothe not only the people in this country but people around the world."
She stressed that she wanted to "promote policies that will help all of our farmers reap a bountiful harvest for years to come."
Mel Martinez had left his family behind in Cuba and spoke no English when he first set foot in the United States in 1962 at age 15.
Taken in by foster families until his own family made it to Florida four years later, Martinez went on to earn a law degree and to make a name for himself in state government.
He has been chairman of Florida's Orange County -- a local government administration that provides urban services to more than 860,000 people -- since 1998.
In that capacity, Martinez has been credited with efforts to improve traffic flow, reduce school overcrowding, combat drug use and expand public parks.
Saying that "the dream of freedom is the American dream" and making a nod to "compassionate conservatism," Martinez spoke of how his experiences as a 15-year-old refugee have shaped his goals.
He said that "for too long, too many Americans have been left out of the American dream," including the ability to own a home. Martinez vowed to "work hard to ensure that every American has every opportunity to have affordable housing."
"It is my blessing that the dream has come true for me, and now it is my responsibility to help it come true for others," he said.
A longtime friend of the president-elect, oilman Don Evans, 54, headed Bush's presidential campaign.
Like Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, Evans made his fortune in oil. He is the chief executive officer of the Colorado-based Tom Brown oil and gas company in Midland, Texas. Evans joined the company in 1975.
Calling his anticipated position as commerce secretary "an exciting challenge," Evans described the United States as "a nation of free men and free markets."
"You see it everywhere in America, from the corner merchants in Washington, DC, to the oil fields of west Texas," Evans said. "Our business in America is truly business, and as a result, our economy is the envy of the world."
Also on Wednesday, Bush named Alcoa aluminum chief Paul O'Neill as his nominee for treasury secretary.
Bush has yet to fill key cabinet posts in defense, energy, environment, justice (the attorney general) and appoint a White House spokesman.
Late Wednesday in his first policy-oriented event since securing the White House, Bush told a diverse group of religious leaders here that faith-based institutions can help cure America's social ills.
"There is a role for government," Bush told the ministers, gathered at a Baptist church in Austin. "But there's a role as well beyond government. And a good place to start in America is to rally the people of good faith and good heart who understand that there is a power larger than themselves."
Bush later stressed that the gathering was not a "political meeting," but said he welcomed the opportunity to win the support of groups -- especially black voters -- who did not support him in the election -- AUSTIN, Texas (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)