The New York Times reported this weekend that San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, perhaps best known for his speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, will leave San Antonio to become President Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development.
Castro is one of the most prominent up-and-comers in the Democratic party; he’s long been considered a potential vice-presidential candidate in 2016, and this move is considered a bid to gain the 39-year-old more national attention. The current secretary of HUD, Shaun Donovan (whom we interviewed recently about how better design could steel cities against the effects of climate change), will become director of the Office of Management and Budget (a cabinet-level position under Obama), the Times reported. To continue the political shuffling, the former head of that office, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, will take over the Department of Health and Human Services from Kathleen Sibelius, who’s stepping down after the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, seen by many as disastrous.
Housing and Urban Development is responsible for providing affordable housing in the U.S., including overseeing public housing. Donovan, who has held the top position there since the beginning of Obama’s first term, took a major role in the response to Hurricane Sandy. He also launched an initiative to build and improve neighborhoods around public housing as well as transportation connecting public housing to other communities. Donovan is a favorite of the president, the Times reports, leaving big shoes for Castro to fill.
Castro has presided over the growth of a city some might be surprised to learn is now the seventh largest in the country (it’s poised to take over the sixth spot from Philadelphia in the near future) and has led efforts to turn HemisFair Park, the site of the 1968 World’s Fair, into a massive public park.
Castro has previously spurned invitations to join Obama’s cabinet, but HUD may hold more temptation for him. His personal narrative includes a frequently mentioned fourth grade-educated grandmother who emigrated from Mexico, and the remarkable achievement his family has shown in a mere two generations (Castro’s twin brother, Joaquin, is a Democratic congressman representing Texas’s 20th district). His efforts as mayor have focused on bringing San Antonio, a relatively thriving city that weathered the recession better than most, attention as a national city, but the HUD secretary job would allow him to focus on poverty nationwide.