President George W. Bush has named a potential replacement for HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, who resigned in late March under allegations of cronyism.

Bush revealed his decision in a speech today, announcing he had nominated Steve Preston, currently the head of the Small Business Administration, as the next HUD secretary.

In a nod to housing’s current crisis, Bush explained his choice. “The department requires strong leadership at a time when our housing market is experiencing a period of challenge and uncertainty,” the president said. “In seeking to fill this important Cabinet post I looked for a leader with an impressive background in finance; someone who understands the important role the housing market plays in the broader economy. I sought a reformer who would act aggressively to help Americans obtain affordable mortgages … and be able to keep their homes. I sought a consensus-builder who's earned the respect of Republicans and Democrats, who can get things done. I found these qualities and much more in Steve Preston.”

Preston, who was confirmed unanimously as SBA head in 2006, came to SBA from the private sector. “Steve is a strong executive with a quarter century of management experience,” Bush said. “He's had senior leadership roles at two multi-billion dollar corporations and in the financial services industry. He understands the free enterprise system from every angle.”

Preston’s corporate resume includes ServiceMaster Co., which owns firms such as Terminix pest control and Merry Maids cleaning services; he served as executive vice president of strategic services prior to joining the SBA. He also was a senior vice president and treasurer of First Data Corp., which handles electronic payments. He has a bachelor’s from Northwestern University and an MBA from the University of Chicago, where he graduated in 1985. According to a New York Times report, he is 47 years old.

Preston also spoke during the announcement, sharing words that are sure to be dissected and analyzed by anxious builders and others in the housing industry. “As we help people pursue the American Dream, we need to have a market to operate fairly and effectively for all Americans,” he said. “And our solutions must restore confidence in our markets, while not erecting barriers to future entrepreneurs, investors, and home buyers.”

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Alison Rice is a contributing editor to BUILDER Online.