|14th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development|
June 5, 2008 – January 20, 2009
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Alphonso Jackson|
|Succeeded by||Shaun Donovan|
|Born||August 4, 1960|
Steven C. Preston (born August 4, 1960) served as the 14th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2008 to 2009 and the 22nd Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration from 2006 until his appointment as HUD Secretary. Before entering public service, Preston spent nearly 25 years in financial and operational leadership positions in the private sector.
Preston grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin and attended Parker High School where he was class valedictorian, president of the student congress, and a varsity wrestler. His mother grew up in Germany during and after World War II and his father was born in an Appalachian coal-mining camp. Preston has four siblings.
During the first half of his private sector career, Preston worked in investment banking and corporate finance. Preston joined Lehman Brothers in 1985, ultimately serving as a Senior Vice President in the Investment Banking Department.
In 1993, Preston moved to First Data Corporation where he was Senior Vice President and Treasurer. He managed capital structure strategies, financial risk management, and investor relations during a period of rapid growth.
Preston moved to The ServiceMaster Company in 1997 where he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for seven years before heading the company’s Strategic Services effort. In 2000 CFO magazine named him one of the “Next Wave” of financial executives that would make a difference in the next decade.
Preston was nominated to be the 22nd Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration on April 25, 2006. Small business advocates questioned the nomination since Preston had never started or worked for a small business. In his Senate confirmation hearing Preston said SBA is “a big business that supports the needs of small businesses … an organization that requires sophisticated financial management, operational responsiveness, and a customer service culture among the workforce” and SBA leadership must have “a mind for big business but a heart for small business.”
Preston was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on June 29, 2006. He took over SBA at a time when the agency was under fire for its disaster loan operation’s response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Preston pledged to improve processing and disbursement of SBA disaster loans to storm victims at his confirmation hearing. Ultimately, the agency distributed approximately $6 billion in loans to those victims. Under Preston, SBA completely reworked disaster operations, implementing reforms that cut key processing times for disaster loan applications by up to 90 percent.
On the day Preston was sworn in, CBS “Evening News” criticized the agency’s lax enforcement of small business contracting rules, a failure members of Congress said resulted in more than $12 billion in contracts going to large companies like Microsoft and Rolls Royce. Preston attempted to bring transparency to the process by closing loopholes, tightening the small business contract definition, and developing a new scorecard for federal contracting agencies. The SBA ordered agencies to eliminate inaccuracies in the federal small business contracting database and recertify their size status regularly. By correcting erroneous data, the federal government was required to reduce its previously reported small business procurements by $4.6 billion, causing total contracts to fall below the 23 percent congressional mandate. Some small business advocates did not think Preston’s reforms went far enough. House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) said, “The fact that large businesses are being awarded with small-business contracts, and that there is no system in place with penalties or consequences for this, is extremely concerning.”
In 2006, SBA ranked dead last among federal agencies in the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work Survey. SBA improved its ranking 30 percent in the 2009 survey, the most improved among large federal agencies. The score for SBA leadership improved 36 percent in the survey.
Preston drove many other operational reforms throughout the agency, including changing the loan guaranty program to make it more effective and easier to use. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) praised the reforms: “Preston is widely credited with correcting major problems at the Small Business Administration … Mr. Preston inherited an agency in disarray, and he’s worked hard to right its course and to improve relationships with Congress … We may have some differences on policy, but he’s always been professional, responsive, and dedicated to the mission.”
With less than nine months left in his Administration, President Bush nominated Preston to be HUD Secretary on April 18, 2008.
As his predecessor departed amidst scandal, housing advocates and Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) criticized Preston for his lack of previous housing policy experience. With the housing crisis unfolding, President Bush said he needed someone with Preston’s background in finance: “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.”
Preston was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on June 5 and sworn in the same day.
During his tenure, the federal government implemented some of the most sweeping and controversial changes to housing and financial policy since the Great Depression, including: the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008; the Economic Stabilization Act of 2008; the Troubled Asset Relief Program; government takeovers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and expanded FHA refinancing.
Though he emphasized the importance of government action in crisis by saying “mortgage markets have remained open almost entirely due to government support,” Preston said the private sector should ultimately restore the housing market. He argued too many homeowners who should be getting help were still falling through the cracks, and urged financial institutions to “be bold” in their actions to assist troubled homeowners. Preston warned Congress and state attorneys general would continue to intervene if private financial institutions didn’t act strongly enough, specifically citing a congressional plan to allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages.
In responding to criticisms that few financial institutions had enrolled in the Hope for Homeowners program, the cornerstone of the 2008 housing bill, Preston said the program was too expensive and complex for borrowers and lenders to use.
While at HUD, Preston continued to be an outspoken advocate for transparency, effectiveness, and efficiency in government programs. He initiated reforms to enable the Federal Housing Administration to handle its increasing volume of loans; broke ground on two public housing developments in New Orleans that had been stalled due to lack of funding; and finalized regulations that had been stalled since 2002 to help consumers find lower costs mortgages and avoid harmful loan offers.
Preston continues to be an active commentator on the housing market and the mortgage crisis. In an October 2010 appearance on CNBC Preston laid out a path forward, noting, “[W]e’ve got a situation right now where, you know, the federal government’s basically doing all the mortgages. The Fed owns over a trillion dollars worth of mortgage securities. We don’t know what that’s going to look like going forward. … I think it’s absolutely essential that we get on with the task of laying out a path toward a private mortgage finance system in our country.” Preston also discussed the causes of, and solutions for, the housing crisis in an April 2011 interview with World magazine.
Preston was named President and CEO of Oakleaf Waste Management in August 2009. Oakleaf, the nation’s largest company dedicated to providing outsourced waste and recycling services, counts some of the U.S.’s most prominent companies, including Sears/Kmart, PepsiCo, and CVS, as its clients.
In November 2010, Oakleaf introduced “Intelligent Waste Management,” a new approach to waste management the company claims will help its clients reduce “the financial and environmental costs” associated with their waste products. The process, Oakleaf says, transforms waste “into an asset,” increasing clients’ reputations for sustainability while enhancing productivity. The approach differs from traditional waste management services in four ways, the company explains. First, each client receives a business solution tailored to its needs and industry. Next, Oakleaf minimizes costs to the client by procuring goods and services from local vendors. Third, the company minimizes the waste dumped into costly landfills by extracting commodities from the client’s waste stream. Finally, Oakleaf created a new analytical tool and a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week customer service center to implement and track the progress of the news system, and to help educate clients about the new process.
Preston discussed the company’s new approach when he co-hosted CNBC’s morning show “Squawk Box” on Dec. 22, 2011. The company has also created a blog to update customers on the benefits of the program, and the company’s sustainability efforts in general.
The company provides its services to more than 83,000 locations throughout the U.S. and has been named five times to Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest growing, privately held companies in the U.S. The company earned nearly $595 million in revenues in 2008 and was number 35 on Inc.’s list in terms of gross dollars of growth. In May 2010, for the sixth consecutive year, Oakleaf was named one of the top 100 fastest growing inner-city companies in the U.S. by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City.
Shortly after taking over Oakleaf, Preston established Oakleaf Cares, an effort to increase the company’s involvement in its community. In addition to organizing volunteers to serve in soup kitchens and local tutoring program, Preston led a team for the 2011 Multiple Sclerosis bike ride in Windsor, Connecticut. Team Oakleaf had more than 100 participants.
In January, 2011 Oakleaf moved to its new headquarters in Windsor, Connecticut.
Preston currently resides in Connecticut with his wife and five children. He has volunteered with many children’s causes, including tutoring children in the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York and serving on various boards. He currently serves on the boards of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing, and Wheaton College. He also chairs the Board of Visitors at Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and serves as a Senior Advisor to New Mountain Capital.
|Administrator of the United States Small Business Administration
2006 – 2008
Karen Gordon Mills
|United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Served under: George W. Bush
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