Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank discusses cyber-security policy… (Ann Heisenfelt / Associated…)
WASHINGTON -- Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, who has held the job since John Bryson resigned for medical reasons in June, is stepping down to become chancellor of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, she said Monday.
Blank told her staff in an email that she would leave sometime before July, when her new job begins.
"I expect to welcome a new secretary of Commerce before I leave," wrote Blank, a former dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. She told her employees it had been an honor to serve with them.
Obama praised Blank as a "a vital member of my economic team."
"A tireless advocate for American businesses, Becky has helped to increase our competitiveness, support our innovators and entrepreneurs, and bring good-paying jobs back to our shores," Obama said Monday.
One of Obama's top campaign fundraisers, Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker, has been mentioned as a top candidate for the Commerce Department job. Blank's successor would be the fourth person to hold the Cabinet position since Obama took office.
The Commerce secretary is the administration's main liaison to the business community and oversees a variety of government agencies, including the National Weather Service and the Census Bureau.
Commerce is not viewed as a top Cabinet position. Last year, Obama proposed to merge the department's core functions with those of five other agencies, including the Small Business Administration and U.S. Trade Representative's Office, into a new Cabinet department.
Obama never nominated a replacement for Bryson, the former Edison International chief executive who suffered a seizure in June that led to two hit-and-run accidents in San Gabriel Valley.
Bryson cited the seizure for his resignation after only about eight months on the job, saying his medical condition could be a distraction to Obama.
Blank took over on an acting basis. She had been with the Commerce Department since 2009, where she began as the top economic advisor to then-Secretary Gary Locke.
A special committee of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents announced Monday that it had recommended Blank for the job. The full board is set to vote on April 5.
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