When making the announcement, Bush noted that in the past year as EPA chief, Leavitt "has enforced high standards and a spirit of cooperation and with good common sense… He has managed the EPA with skill and with a focus on results. I've come to know Mike as a fine executive, and as a man of great compassion."
Calling Leavitt "an ideal choice to lead one of the largest departments of the United States government," Bush noted that Leavitt, like former DHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Bush himself, served as a governor. "The people of Utah elected Mike Leavitt to three terms, and during his administration, Utah was named one of the best-managed state governments in the country. Governor Leavitt was a leader in welfare reform, resource management and environmental stewardship. He improved child welfare services in the state, and made strides toward expanding access to health care for children. He made government services more accessible through the Internet, and he always insisted that the government remain accountable to the people it serves."
Leavitt said that over the past several days, he has had a chance to begin sorting through some of the papers that he accumulated over 11 years as governor and as EPA administrator.
"I found one letter that expresses what I'm feeling," said Leavitt. "It actually was a letter from a young father, a man I had met several years before. The letter was actually a report on his son. He had recently passed the 5-year the critical 5-year point on a lifesaving procedure that he had that was made possible by Medicaid. It was a letter of gratitude. As I read it, I felt a sense of gratitude. I felt a sense of gratitude for living in a country where the cares and the values of people matter, and where we care for their help."
Saying he was grateful for the privilege to be able to serve on the cabinet, Leavitt added, "I feel a real sense of understandable regret after having to leave the Environmental Protection Agency. It's an agency that's filled with dedicated people whom I have come to have great affection for and have a sense of shared importance and mission in protecting public health. The quality of health and the health condition of people in this nation is a commitment that is shared among both agencies, as is the connection between science and health."
No word yet on who Bush might nominate to replace Leavitt at EPA.