Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Frederico Peña (1997–1998): Secretary of Energy

Frederico Fabian Peña was born in 1947 in Laredo, Texas. He earned his B.A. in 1969 and his J.D. in 1972, both from the University of Texas. After a short stint working as a legal aid attorney in El Paso, Peña moved to Denver, Colorado, where he was admitted to the bar and again worked in legal aid before becoming a staff attorney for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

In 1979, Peña won a seat in the Colorado state House of Representatives and within four years had become the body's minority Speaker. In 1983, he ran a successful campaign to become the mayor of Denver, defeating the fourteen-year incumbent and becoming the first Latin American mayor of the city. Peña secured reelection in 1988, but in 1991 he decided not to run again, choosing instead to establish an investment company.

In 1992, President-elect Bill Clinton tapped Peña -- who had advised Clinton on transportation issues during the presidential campaign -- to become secretary of transportation, a post he held from 1993 to 1997.

Though Peña had planned to leave Clinton's cabinet after the President's first term, he was persuaded to remain in the administration, this time serving as secretary of energy. Peña agreed to do so for one year, ultimately leaving the cabinet in 1998. Frederico Fabian Peña then joined Vestar Capital Partners.