First Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge Resigns
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2004 Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge formally announced his resignation today.
"Earlier today, I submitted a formal letter of resignation to the president. And with his concurrence, it is my desire to continue to serve as secretary of homeland security through February first of next year unless my successor is confirmed by the Senate earlier," Ridge said in a news conference.
Ridge was sworn in as the first director of the White House's Office of Homeland Security in October 2001. As such, the president charged him with conceiving and implementing a national strategy to defend the country against terrorist threats and attacks.
On Jan. 24, 2003, almost a year to the day after an Act of Congress formally created the Department of Homeland Security, Ridge became the first secretary of Homeland Security.
He merged some 22 federal agencies, including the Coast Guard, into the new department on March 1, 2003.
Ridge said that leaving the post was not easy. "The president has given me an extraordinary opportunity to serve my country in this incredible period since Sept. 11, 2001," he said. "I will always be grateful for his call to service. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve my country with this president as its leader."
Ridge, who said he started seriously considering resigning after the presidential election, is going to take some time before making any career moves.
"I'm just going to step back after 22-plus years in public service in a row. I'm going to sit back a little bit, breathe deeply and then decide."
Ridge cited wanting to elevate the priority of some personal matters as the main reason for his decision to resign his post. But he's not leaving the post he defined without some words of encouragement for his yet-to-be-identified successor, however.
"I think I would say to my successor that the opportunity to continue on a day- by-day basis to make your country safer and more secure within the constitutional framework is an enormous challenge and great opportunity for leadership," Ridge said. He added that his successor would "inherit a phenomenal job at an extraordinary time. And hopefully you can go to work every day and enjoy it as much as I did."