Former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt returns to HHS for unveiling of official portrait

Published: Wednesday, May 8 2013 12:58 p.m. MDT

Former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, who served as the secretary of health and human services under President George W. Bush, is joined by current HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for the unveiling of his official government portrait Tuesday, May 7, 2013, in Washington, D.C.

HHS photo by Chris Smith

Former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, who served under President George W. Bush as the 20th secretary of health and human services, joined current HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for the unveiling of his official government portrait Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Leavitt left his post as Utah's governor in 2003 to head the Environmental Protection Agency and served at the EPA from 2003 to 2005 before being appointed to lead HHS.

"I've come to know Mike as a fine executive and as a man of great compassion," Bush said during the formal announcement of Leavitt's nomination in December 2004. "He is an ideal choice to lead one of the largest departments of the U.S. government."

During the nomination process in early 2005, Leavitt earned praise from Washington leaders ranging from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Leavitt, who led 70,000 HHS workers during his time there, left the post in 2009, saying goodbye to his staff in a short video. In the video, he praised the employees for the commitment they shared in helping Americans become healthier and happier.

During Republican candidate Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in 2012, Politico reported that Leavitt was creating a "government-in-waiting" for a possible Romney administration and that he would have been a lock for either the White House chief of staff job or treasury secretary post.

Suzy DeFrancis, who worked as the assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS during Leavitt's time there, tweeted about Tuesday's portrait unveiling, saying it was a "privilege to serve."

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