President Bush has named Steve Preston, head of the Small Business Administration, as his choice for the next secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

If approved, Preston, 47, would replace Alphonso Jackson, who resigned last month while under investigation for directing federal contracts to friends and associates. Preston is taking over at a sensitive time as demands grow for a more effective federal response to the home foreclosure crisis.

During his tenure as administrator of the SBA, Preston led a reform agenda to make the agency more accountable and responsive, especially to small business owners affected by natural disasters. The Bush administration credited him with managing loan guarantee programs similar to those run by HUD, and said he streamlined efforts to disburse loans to small businesses and homeowners struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

"The department requires strong leadership at a time when our housing market is experiencing a period of challenge and uncertainty," said Bush in announcing Preston's nomination. "In seeking to fill this important Cabinet post, 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."

Prior to his appointment to the SBA, Preston worked for home services provider ServiceMaster starting in 1997, most recently as executive vice president of strategic services. He previously served as the company's executive vice president and CFO.

Preston also served as senior vice president and treasurer of payment-processing company First Data Corp. between 1993 and 1997. Earlier in his career, he was a senior vice president in investment banking at Lehman Brothers.

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