The new head of the Small Business Administration praised President Bush for his commitment to the nation's entrepreneurs and business owners and called his own role at the agency a "personal mission," during a ceremony on Wednesday.

Steven Preston, who took the official oath of office as the SBA's new administrator, said the president has "done so much to foster an environment for entrepreneurship," citing recent efforts to create small-business health-care plans and repeal the estate tax.

Vice President Dick Cheney presided over the ceremony at SBA headquarters, which was attended by hundreds of the agency's rank-and-file employees, as well as regional directors, and other officials. Wednesday's ceremony followed a smaller, private event on July 10.

Standing with his wife and five young children, Preston called the vice president's attendance at the ceremony "a real honor" that signals the administration's commitment to small business.

During his introduction, Cheney described Preston as "a man who focuses on results," adding, "I know this agency will benefit from his leadership."

Preston, a former corporate executive, will become the SBA's 22nd administrator since its founding in 1953. He was confirmed by unanimous consent in the Senate on June 29, following a brief hearing before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

He succeeds Hector Barreto, who resigned in April to head the Latino Coalition, a Washington-based advocacy group. Barreto had headed the agency since July 2001.