WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, whose name became synonymous with color-coded terror alerts and tutorials about how to prepare for possible attack, resigned yesterday.

Ridge submitted his resignation in writing to President Bush yesterday morning but indicated he will continue to serve until Feb. 1. “I will always be grateful for his call to service,” Ridge said.

Ridge said for the future he intends to “raise some family and personal matters to a higher priority,” including attending his son’s rugby games.

In an e-mail circulated to Homeland Security officials, Ridge praised the department as “an extraordinary organization that each day contributes to keeping America safe and free.” He also said he was privileged to work with the department’s 180,000 employees “who go to work every day dedicated to making our country better and more secure.”

Among those mentioned as possible candidates for Ridge’s replacement are Bernard Kerik, interim minister of the interior for Iraq and former New York City police commissioner, former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt and White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend.

Others are also believed to be interested in the job, including Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security in the Homeland Security Department.

Six other Bush cabinet figures are leaving, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

Bush has chosen national security adviser Condoleezza Rice for the State Department, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales for the Justice Department and Carlos Gutierrez for Commerce.

In October 2001, Ridge became the nation’s first White House homeland security adviser, leading a massive undertaking to rethink all aspects of security within the U.S. borders in the wake of the terror attacks of September 2001.

Congress subsequently passed legislation establishing the Homeland Security Department, merging 180,000 employees from 22 government agencies. Ridge became the department’s first secretary in January 2003.

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