WASHINGTON -- Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the first Latina to serve in a Cabinet, is stepping down, the White House announced Wednesday.
In a letter to employees at the department, Solis said she submitted her resignation to President Obama Wednesday afternoon. After reflecting on her future with friends and family in California over the holidays, Solis said she “decided to begin a new future, and return to the people and places I love and that have inspired and shaped my life.”
“Together we have achieved extraordinary things and I am so proud of our work on behalf of the nation’s working families,” she said. “Leaving the department is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, because I have taken our mission to heart.”
In a statement, President Obama thanked the former Southern California congresswoman for her long career in public service, calling her a “tireless champion for working families.”
“Over the last four years, Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team as we have worked to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and strengthen the economy for the middle class,” Obama said. “Her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers’ health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work.”
Solis’ departure comes amid a reshuffling of Obama’s senior staff and Cabinet as he is set to start his second term. The timing of Solis’ departure was a bit of a surprise, however.
Solis was one of five female Cabinet secretaries, and one of two Latinos, along with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Three other women hold Cabinet-level positions, including the departing EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson.
Solis represented the Los Angeles area in Congress for eight years before joining the Obama administration in 2009.
[For the Record, 2:26 p.m. PST Jan. 9: This post has been updated to include the letter Solis sent to her department employees.]