Secretary of Agriculture – confirmation needed

Tom Vilsack

by Deedra Abboud in Political
January 8, 2021 0 comments

President-elect Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate Tom Vilsack to once again serve as the Secretary of Agriculture.

The position: Advises on food production and agricultural issues and oversees food assistance programs.

Thomas James Vilsack was born in 1950 at a Roman Catholic orphanage in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his 23-year-old birth mother (a secretary) had lived since September 1950 under the pseudonym of “Gloria”; he was baptized as “Kenneth”.

He was adopted in 1951 by Bud, a real-estate agent and insurance salesman, and Dolly Vilsack. They named him Thomas James.

Vilsack attended Shady Side Academy, a preparatory high school in Pittsburgh.

He received a bachelor’s degree in 1972 from Hamilton College. While at Hamilton, he joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity.

Vilsack met his wife, Ann Christine “Christie” Vilsack, at Hamilton College in New York in October 1968.

The couple was married on August 18, 1973, in Christie Vilsack’s hometown of Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

He received a Juris Doctor from Albany Law School in 1975.

Vilsack and his wife moved to Mount Pleasant in 1975, where he joined his father-in-law’s law practice.

In Mount Pleasant, Vilsack raised funds to rebuild an athletic facility for young people. This led him to involvement in the local Chamber of Commerce and United Way.

After the mayor of Mount Pleasant was gunned down in December 1986, Vilsack led a fundraising drive to build a memorial fountain. The deceased mayor’s father asked Vilsack to run for mayor of Mount Pleasant; he was elected and began serving in 1987.

Vilsack was elected to the Iowa Senate in 1992.

He worked on legislation requiring companies who received state tax incentives to provide better pay and benefits. He helped pass a law for workers to receive health coverage when changing jobs, and helped redesign Iowa’s Workforce Development Department.

He also wrote a bill to have the State of Iowa assume a 50% share of local county mental health costs.

Vilsack became the first Democrat to serve as governor of Iowa in 30 years and only the fifth Democrat to hold the office in the 20th century. He served as governor from 1999 until 2007, governing a largely agricultural state.

In July 2005, Vilsack signed an executive order allowing all felons who had served their sentences to vote. Approximately 115,000 felons regained their voting rights. He said: “When you’ve paid your debt to society, you need to be reconnected and re-engaged to society.”

Vilsack was the founder and former chair of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership and was named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, an industry lobbying group.

The Senate confirmed Vilsack’s nomination for the Secretary of Agriculture by unanimous consent on January 20, 2009.

Reaction to Vilsack’s nomination from agricultural groups was largely positive and included endorsements from the Corn Refiners Association, the National Grain and Feed Association, the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

On January 24, 2012, Obama appointed Vilsack the designated survivor during the President’s State of the Union address.

Shortly after his tenure ended, Vilsack released a statement in support of his succession by Sonny Perdue as the Secretary of Agriculture, making Perdue the only cabinet member nominee to receive a public statement of support from an Obama cabinet member.

Tom and Christie Vilsack have two sons, Jess and Doug.

Since February 2017, Vilsack has been President and CEO of the US Dairy Export Council.

In May 2017, Vilsack’s six-year-old granddaughter, Ella, died of complications from influenza.

Vilsack won $150,000 in the Powerball in 2020.

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