United States Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced Wednesday afternoon that she is stepping down from her position at the helm of the Labor Department.
Solis was the first Latina to lead a federal agency. Her resignation means one less woman in President Barack Obama's cabinet, which is already being criticized for a lack of diversity.
White men have been tapped to replace the outgoing female secretaries of defense and state. For now, it remains unclear who will replace Solis.
The California native grew up in a large Mexican-American family in La Puente, California and has been a champion of workers' rights. A Democrat who served the East Los Angeles area in the House of Representatives, Solis took on issues from environmental protection to worker safety. Such actions encouraged great admiration from her community. She has held the labor secretary position since Obama took office in 2008. Her decision to leave, she says, was made in the last few weeks.
"Over the Christmas and New Year holidays with my family in California, I enjoyed my first opportunity in years to reflect on the past and my future, with an open mind and an open heart," Solis said in a letter to colleagues. "After much discussion with my family and close friends I have decided to begin a new future and return to the people and places I love and that have inspired and shaped my life."
She praised President Obama for his work on job growth and his overhaul of the healthcare system.
"Leaving the department is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, because I have taken our mission to heart, " she continued. "As the daughter of parents who worked in factories, paid their union dues and achieved their goal of a middle class life, and as the first Latina to head a major federal agency, it has been an incredible honor to serve."
Solis oversaw the Labor Department as it struggled to rebound from one of the worst economic downturns in recent memory. According to The Washington Post, "Solis has been widely expected to resign to run for office in Los Angeles, most likely to be LA County supervisor."
Obama issued a statement praising Solis for her work.
"Hilda Solis has been a tireless champion for working class families," he said.