July, 2009The Obama Administration today began naming individuals who will serve as State Director for Rural Development at the USDA.
"These individuals will be important advocates on behalf of rural communities in states throughout the country and help administer the valuable programs and services provided by the USDA that can enhance their economic success," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Jim Norlund: Norlund owns Norlund Carpentry, LLC, a small business that specializes in residential construction and remodeling in Anchorage, Alaska. Previously, he was the Director of Public Assistance for the state of Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services where he oversaw 500 employees and a $250 million budget. Norlund served as a state representative in Alaska and is an active board member on power and energy associations based in his home state. Norlund was also Vice-Chairman of Chugach Electrical Association. He holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Colorado and a bachelor's degree in government from St. John's University in Minnesota.
Donna Kiyosaki: Kiyosaki is currently the Senior Vice President for Waimana Enterprises, a development company in Hawaii that works on projects involving energy development, water and telecommunications infrastructure. Previously, she served as the Deputy Manager and Chief Engineer on the Board of Water Supply for the City and County of Honolulu, where she directed a staff of 600 employees and implemented plans to acquire additional water systems and expand into recycled water delivery. Prior to that role, Kiyosaki worked for the Department of Public Works for the County of Hawaii, as well as for the Hawaii Electric Light Company, where she contributed to innovative programs that delivered electricity to rural communities. Kiyosaki is active with many civic organizations, including professional associations and community groups. She has a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Stanford University.
Colleen Callahan: Callahan is currently the President of Chicago Farmers and runs Colleen Callahan Communications, where she provides communications services to a variety of organizations, including the USDA. In 2008, Callahan was a candidate for the 18th congressional district of Illinois. She has extensive experience in broadcast radio producing segments on agricultural and agribusiness issues. Callahan was the first woman elected as President to the National Association of Farm Broadcasting in 2002, and has received many awards for her broadcast work and contributions to agricultural associations. Her family raises purebred Angus cattle on a family farm near Kickapoo, Illinois. Callahan has a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Philip Lehmkuhler: Lehmkuhler has worked as the Manager of Economic Development and Member Service for the Indiana Municipal Power Agency since 2005, where he coordinates economic development opportunities throughout 52 rural cities and towns in Indiana. As an adjunct professor at Indiana University, he teaches courses in government finance and public affairs. Lehmkuhler worked with the Indiana Department of Commerce and also served as a legislative liaison for Indiana Tobacco Prevention. He has many years of experience working with elected officials in Indiana on state issues, including economic development. Lehmkuhler worked for Congressman Lee Hamilton from 1987-1999 and then for Senator Evan Bayh from 1999- 2001. Lehmkuhler has a master's degree in public administration from the University of Louisville, and a bachelor's degree in public affairs from Indiana University.
James Turner: Since 2004 Turner has worked as State Advisor on Renewable and Alternative Energy for U.S. Senator Carl Levin, where he monitors renewable energy and alternative energy development in Michigan. He also serves as the Systems Administrator and oversees all IT systems in the Senator's state operations. Through his work as a Regional Representative for the mid-Michigan region, Turner has worked with local officials and community managers on policy and development issues. He has over 30 years of experience working on constituent issues in Michigan. Turner holds a bachelor's degree in public administration from Ferris State University.
Colleen Landkamer: Landkamer has been the County Commissioner for Blue Earth County, Minnesota, since 1988. In this position, she represents constituents of the first district and manages an $80 million dollar budget for government services. Landkamer served as the President at the National Association of Counties (NACo) and has experience working on issues of rural development with local, national and international organizations. As an active participate in many civic organizations, she dedicates time to regional boards and professional groups focused on rural and environmental issues. In 2007 Landkamer was honored with a dedicated service award from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, Minnesota Chapter.
Trina George: George has worked with Congressman Bennie Thompson's office since 1994 as a Special Projects Coordinator and Office Manager. She is responsible for coordinating outreach services, participates in district development events and works with federal agencies to resolve constituent issues. Prior to her position in Congressman Thompson's office, George was an Office Manager at the Mississippi Health Awareness project. In 2007, she received certification in Management and Leadership from the NeighborWorks Training Institute of America and is currently a Ph.D candidate in Public Policy and Administration at Walden University. She also has a master's degree in instructional technology and a bachelor's degree in computer science. George serves on many civic organizations, including education and volunteer groups.
Matthew Jones: Jones is the Director for Economic Development in the office of U.S. Senator Max Baucus. He has worked extensively with USDA Rural Development while coordinating economic development strategies for the state. Previously, Jones worked for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee where he contributed to energy tax policy and worked on transportation issues. He worked on energy and industry issues while an associate at Brickfeild, Burchette, Ritts and Stone PC. Jones earned his bachelor's degree in economics at the University of Montana and his J.D. from Georgetown University.
Maxine Moul: Moul is the Coordinator of EndowNebraska, a nonprofit that works to build permanent endowments of Nebraska nonprofits by utilizing charitable tax credits. Previously, she served as President of the Nebraska Community Foundation, a statewide 501(c)(3) that helped distribute more than $76 million for community and economic development in Nebraska. Prior to her work there, Moul was Lt. Governor of Nebraska under then Governor Ben Nelson and later served as the Director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. From 1969-1990, she worked in journalism starting as a reporter and later became a publisher, owner and CEO of a newspaper publishing company that she founded with her husband. Moul is active on a variety of civic organizations that focus on rural issues and is currently one of two Nebraska advisors to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She is a journalism graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Jill Harvey: Harvey has directed Senator Schumer's effort in the 10-county central region of New York for the last decade. She has experience coordinating FEMA and USDA relief for communities affected by summer droughts, ice storms, floods and snow storms. Harvey has 24 years of public service experience in community relations, public affairs, and legislative issues. While working as a Legislative Director for New York State Assembly member Alex Grannis for 9 years, she developed expertise on issues of statewide importance. Harvey holds a degree in social sciences and visual arts from SUNY College at Purchase.
Ryan McMullen: Since 2004 McMullen has been a state representative in Oklahoma where he represents southwestern and central regions of the state. During his time as a state representative, his policy and legislative efforts have focused on agricultural and rural economic development issues. Previously, McMullen worked with the El Reno Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation as Executive Director. He has broadcast radio experience and is familiar with rural economic issues throughout Oklahoma. McMullen holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from Oklahoma State University.
Thomas Williams: Williams is currently the District Projects Director for Congressman Paul Kanjorski. He works with local government agencies to help communities and businesses throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania obtain access to funding for development projects. Previously, Williams ran a family restaurant and also served as the Executive Director for the Department of Community Development for the City of Nanticoke. He holds a master's degree in political science from Bloomsburg University and a bachelor's from Wilkes University. Williams is actively involved in nonprofit community economic development efforts.
Francisco Valentin Jr.: Valentin formerly served as the Director of the Rural Utilities Service with USDA Rural Development. For 28 years, he worked with USDA in various capacities, including his tenure as Rural Development Manager in both Georgetown and Bryan, Texas. He gained familiarity with community facilities and multi-family housing loans while serving as a USDA Rural Development Housing Loan Specialist. During the period of 1982-1991, Valentin was county supervisor for the USDA Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) in Caldwell, Texas. Prior to that position, he served as Assistant County Supervisor in Gilmer Texas for FmHA. Before beginning his federal career in 1979 he worked as a ranch manager. Valentin holds a Bachelor of Science in agriculture from Southwest Texas State University.
Ellen Matthews Davis: Davis formerly served as the State Director of USDA Rural Development in Virginia. She was appointed in 2006. In that position she oversaw regional offices and a portfolio over $2.1 billion. From 1978-1982, Davis was the Director of Human Resources at the Virginia Farm Bureau. In 1996 she established a management consulting business and worked in association with the Virginia Corn Growers Association and the Virginia Small Grains Association to increase visibility of grain production in the state. Davis is involved in a taskforce that is focused on the production effects of biofuels on rural communities. She attended the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Mario Villanueva: Villanueva is currently the Catholic Charities Housing Services Director in Yakima, Washington. From 1995-1999, he was the Housing Development Coordinator for the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing in Washington state. He also served as a Housing Planner for that organization, where he worked on affordable agricultural housing projects that were supported by USDA Rural Development funding and other federal and state programs. During Villanueava's tenure as the Self-Help Housing Program Manager with the Neighborhood Housing Services of Eastern Washington, he was responsible for the implementation of a first-time homebuyer program. His experience in affordable housing includes the development of community-based, single family and multi-family units. Villanueva attended the University of Wisconsin.
Stan Gruszynski: Gruszynski is currently the director of Rural Leadership and Community Development for the Global Environmental Management Center at the University of Wisconsin's Stevens Point College of Natural Resources. Prior to that position, he served as the Director of Public Affairs for USDA Rural Development in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, for seven years. While at Rural Development, he promoted rural program initiatives and fostered working relationships with community groups, Indian Tribes and underserved populations. Gruszynski was also appointed acting State Director for several months in 2003. From 1984-1994, he represented the 71st district in the Wisconsin State Assembly and served on both the rural affairs and natural resources committees. While working as the Midwest District Field Services Officer at the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, he focused on affordable housing issues. Gruszynski served as the Majority Caucus Director for the Wisconsin State Senate and is currently a board member on several environmental and academic organizations. He holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from Northland College in Wisconsin
USDA's Rural Development administers and manages over 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs as laid out by Congress through a network of 6,100 employees located in 500 national, state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of over $114 billion in loans and loan guarantees.
The USDA provides leadership on food, agriculture and natural resources and touches the life of every American. Reflecting President Obama's commitment to expanding economic opportunities in rural America, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the USDA are working to enhance availability of broadband, promote the development of renewable energy, to conserve, maintain and improve our natural resources and environment, and promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply.