Transportation secretary does job from hospital

Monday, February 17, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta has been lying down on the job a lot lately.

It has nothing to do with his work ethic. For most of the past 2 1/2 months, Mineta has run the 160,000-person department from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he had back surgery.

He works out of a suite once used by President Eisenhower, who spent three weeks at Walter Reed following surgery in 1956. Mineta is regaining the strength in his legs and running the agency by phone, computer and various other electronic tools.

"With 7,000 employees at headquarters, I'm not in touch with every one of them," Mineta said. "But I'm in touch with 50 or 60 of them in the course of a day."

John Flaherty, Mineta's chief of staff, and Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson have managed the department's headquarters in Mineta's absence. Aides say major policy decisions are made by Mineta from his hospital room.

Mineta, 71, is the only Democrat in President Bush's Cabinet. He hopes to be released Wednesday.

Mineta's staff made no announcement to the media when he was first admitted to the hospital, and consistently played down his condition.

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