SBA Without Chief as Preston Is Tapped for HUD

Preston is on his way out at the SBA, and some are pushing for a quick replacement, even if the tenure's short

After less than two years in office, Steven Preston, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, was appointed Secretary of the Housing & Urban Development Dept. in April. The SBA declined to comment on the vacancy or on whether Preston's deputy, Jovita Carranza, a 30-year UPS veteran, would be named acting administrator. White House spokesperson Emily Lawrimore says: "The President plans to nominate a well-qualified candidate to serve as the SBA administrator, [but] we don't comment on potential personnel decisions." Anyone named now would serve only a few months before a new Administration takes office.

As head of the SBA, Preston drew both admiration and ire from the small business community, which is now left to guess at who will succeed him. "Administrator Preston may have disagreed with or angered some people, but he tried very hard to right the course at the SBA," says Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship. Now, "we need to see somebody even more capable."

Still, some in the small business community are pushing for an immediate appointee—one who, unlike Preston, a former executive vice-president of ServiceMaster Co., has deep experience with small business issues and is willing to fight the budget cuts that have plagued the agency. The SBA's budget dropped to $571.8 million in fiscal 2007 from $2.23 billion the year before, including all supplemental funding and earmarks, according to the SBA. "Small businesses need to know someone capable will be at the helm to ensure the agency is responsive to their needs," says Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee. An ideal appointee would fight for a Cabinet seat, say advocates.

As of press time, the Senate Banking Committee had not yet voted on Preston's appointment.

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