WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama intends to nominate Maria Contreras-Sweet, the founder of a Latino-owned community bank in Los Angeles and a former California cabinet secretary, to be head of the Small Business Administration, according to a White House official.
Obama will announce Contreras-Sweet’s selection at an event Wednesday, the official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the nomination by name ahead of the announcement.
Contreras-Sweet, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, has a history of working with small businesses and has been an advocate for Hispanics. As California’s secretary of the state’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 1999 to 2003, she was the first Latina to serve as a cabinet secretary in the state and oversaw 40,000 state employees and a $12 billion budget.
In 2006, she founded ProAmérica Bank, a financial institution that aimed to assist small and mid-size businesses. Before that, she was president and co-founder of a private equity firm that provided capital to small California businesses.
If confirmed by the Senate, Contreras-Sweet would fill the last vacant Obama Cabinet slot, filling the SBA administrator’s position formerly occupied by Karen Mills.
Contreras-Sweet would become the second Hispanic in Obama’s second term Cabinet. The other is Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. She would also become the eighth woman in Obama’s current Cabinet. Obama’s selection had been the subject of intense interest among Hispanic leaders who wanted to ensure they had a high-profile presence in the administration.
The Washington Post first reported the nomination.