Clinton reportedly tapping prominent gay for HUD post

January 28, 1993|By San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO -- In a milestone for gay political clout, the Clinton administration has tapped Roberta Achtenberg, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, for a top national housing post and has begun preconfirmation background checks, Washington sources said.

Ms. Achtenberg, a prominent lesbian civil rights attorney and political leader among San Francisco's gays, has been named assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Her appointment to the $115,700-a-year position will require Senate confirmation. Senate sources said background checks by the FBI began late last week.

The selection of Ms. Achtenberg, a strong advocate of gay rights, is believed to be the highest federal appointment ever of an openly gay person.

During the campaign, President Clinton repeatedly said he would break down barriers based on sexual orientation.

Neither Ms. Achtenberg nor her staff would comment on her appointment or on the initiation of the confirmation process. But Senate sources said an official announcement of Ms. Achtenberg's selection could come later this week.

"She is a great choice for the job," a HUD executive said. "She has experience and initiative that will be a great asset in important national work."

Ms. Achtenberg's HUD appointment will be the subject of hearings by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, on which she has strong backers, including Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Alphonse M. D'Amato of New York, the ranking Republican on the committee, is not expected to oppose the appointment.

Ms. Achtenberg was an early backer of Mr. Clinton and was one of 15 members of the 1992 Democratic Platform Committee.

She was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1990 and has worked on issues that included legislation on domestic partners.

She lives with municipal Judge Mary Morgan, and the couple have a young son. Judge Morgan is expected to accompany Ms. Achtenberg to Washington, where she might work for a private law firm.

If she is confirmed for the HUD job, Ms. Achtenberg will oversee HUD's fair housing and equal opportunity programs, be responsible for developing departmental affirmative action programs and work to increase job opportunities for low-income residents of HUD projects.

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