Elizabeth Dole Resigning to Head Red Cross
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole will resign to head the American Red Cross, making her the first of President Bush’s Cabinet secretaries to leave office, sources said Tuesday.
Mrs. Dole, 54, the highest-ranking woman in the Bush administration, had been rumored for months to be considering a move. Late Tuesday, aides had not nailed down a time for the official announcement.
Labor Department officials did not immediately return phone calls, but an administration source said an announcement was imminent. Several sources on Capitol Hill also confirmed Mrs. Dole’s resignation. All asked for anonymity.
An American Red Cross official, Barbara Lohman, said she could not confirm that Mrs. Dole would head the organization. But she said that George Moody, a California banker who heads the group’s voluntary board of directors, had pledged to nominate a new president at a weekend meeting in Washington.
The White House turned aside inquiries about Mrs. Dole.
″We have not received her resignation and we refer you to Mrs. Dole,″ said Stephen Hart, a White House deputy press secretary.
During her nearly 2-year tenure at the Labor Department, Mrs. Dole was credited by organized labor with easing the hostilities that had existed between unions and the Reagan administration.
Still, she offered few new initiatives and labor leaders complained that she was not a part of the Bush administration’s decision-making process.
For instance, John Sununu, Bush’s chief of staff, took the lead on last year’s minimum wage negotiations with Congress, not Mrs. Dole, labor officials have complained.
As labor secretary, Mrs. Dole strengthened job safety programs - an area unions felt went neglected during the Reagan era - and toughened enforcement of businesses that violated child labor laws. She also proposed mandatory seat belt use for all job-related travel and was reviewing ways to help women move up in their careers and crack what she called the ″glass ceiling.″
However, labor leaders felt Mrs. Dole was limited by what they perceived as a pro-business administration.
The top Red Cross job has been open for more than a year, Ms. Lohman said. The last person who held the job, Richard Schubert, made about $185,000 a year, she said. Cabinet secretaries earn $98,400.
For months, rumors had been rampant that Mrs. Dole, the wife of Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas, would step down to seek political office. Some observers speculated that she would run for the Senate seat now held by Terry Sanford, D-N.C., who faces re-election in 1992. Mrs. Dole is a native of North Carolina.
In an interview less than two months ago, Mrs. Dole indicated she was not yet ready to change jobs.
″I have plenty of challenges right where I am,″ she said.
While she didn’t discount a future bid for political office, she said, ″One politician in the family’s probably enough for the time being.″
Mrs. Dole is the only woman to head a Cabinet department in the Bush administration. Her departure will leave U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills, who also holds Cabinet rank, as the top-ranking woman in the administration.
Mrs. Dole’s inclusion in the Cabinet was seen as an effort on Bush’s part to mend fences with her husband, a bitter and unsuccessful Bush opponent during the 1988 presidential primaries.
Mrs. Dole got her first Cabinet post in 1983, when President Reagan appointed her transportation secretary. She resigned that Cabinet job to work in her husband’s 1988 presidential campaign.
As transportation secretary, she pushed for mandatory seat belt laws, tighter airport screening procedures and more sophisticated collision- avoidance devices for airliners. But some critics said she spent more time on press releases than on real improvements to the nation’s transportation sector.
A Harvard-educated lawyer, Mrs. Dole has had a Washington career that spans more than two decades. She worked in the old Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the Federal Trade Commission and President Nixon’s Commission on Consumer Interests.
She was born in Salisbury, N.C. At age 20, she was student body president of the Women’s College at Duke University. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1958.
She received a master’s degree in education and government from Harvard University in 1960 and earned a law degree from Harvard in 1965.