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A Job Description of a Secretary of Housing & Urban Development

by Laura Reynolds

If you’ve mastered multitasking, developed expertise in many areas, and served in several statewide or federal elected or appointed offices, a cabinet-level secretary’s job could be within your reach. Each cabinet secretary, including the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, created in 1965, oversees dozens of programs and thousands of employees.

HUD Secretary Basics

The HUD secretary’s 2010 salary of $196,700 compares favorably with chief executives in business, and the skills you need to perform the job are similar. Because the job is a political appointment, training and background experiences vary widely, but the secretary typically holds a degree in law, business or public administration appropriate for his vocation in private life. The position requires strong leadership and managerial skills. The job is large and complex, so time-management, team-building, decision-making and problem-solving skills are essential. Since the secretary works with many assistant secretaries, reports to the president and meets with congressional committees, he must also possess advanced communication skills.

Not Just Middle Management

The primary job duties of a cabinet secretary are to manage a part of the executive branch for the president and to advise the president on issues involving that department. The HUD secretary's job is to make policy, formulate rules, and coordinate the practices of the HUD and its field offices. The HUD’s mission is to "create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all” by creating sustainable communities through quality affordable housing, both rental and owned, according to the HUD's website. To achieve this mission, the department administers programs in housing and mortgage assistance, community development and advocacy.

In-House Responsibilities

The HUD’s secretary doesn’t just approve expense accounts; he must delegate authority by appointing a team of executives. In addition to a deputy secretary to assist him in his work -- and do his job in his absence -- the secretary, as of 2013, must appoint and manage eight assistant secretaries who, in turn, manage program funding and support fair housing, community development, research and policy development. One assistant secretary also serves as federal housing commissioner, and all have additional duties as members of interdepartmental committees and commissions. These assistant secretaries manage department programs and appoint directors, managers and auditors. The secretary works with the inspector general, who is appointed by the president, to ensure that the millions of taxpayer dollars managed by the department are administered efficiently and fairly.

Interface Responsibilities

The secretary is responsible for dozens of programs, as diverse as the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise and Office of Lead-Based Paint. In addition, the secretary appoints representatives or personally sits on dozens of committees, boards and commissions outside of the department. Commissions, councils and task forces on housing for minorities, the elderly, children and people with disabilities all have HUD members. Veterans Affairs and HUD have a joint committee on homeless veterans. The secretary must be familiar enough with the work of each and the HUD’s position on each to make recommendations to the president.

About the Author

An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.

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