HUD's new go-to guy, Nelson Diaz, came on board in August and has helped toss out the timid image the department has been stuck with since its scandal-ridden days. As general counsel, Diaz has become an influential member of Secretary Henry Cisneros' staff and virtually every issue that HUD goes public with crosses his desk for approval before Cisneros approves it.

Diaz, who sits in on most policy meetings, has brought strength to HUD's industry presence. One well-placed mortgage industry source says that the days of HUD lawyers who were hamstrung by scandals are over because Diaz's presence has prevented many industry lawyers from dominating policy discussions.

Diaz hasn't made all those decisions alone. HUD Chief of Staff Bruce Katz is also a very influential member of Cisneros' staff.

Diaz was a trial judge in the 1st Judicial District of Pennsylvania's Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia. He was appointed to that position by former Gov. Richard Thornburgh. The Harlem, N.Y., native also served as a special assistant to former Vice President Walter Mondale in 1977.

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