Transitions for Washington ag

WASHINGTON -- Official Washington is preparing for post-election changes with former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, the top candidate for agriculture secretary in an administration of President-elect Obama and an Obama transition team that could affect a...

WASHINGTON -- Official Washington is preparing for post-election changes with former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, the top candidate for agriculture secretary in an administration of President-elect Obama and an Obama transition team that could affect a wide range of policy decisions and political appointees who will have power over the Agriculture Department and other government agencies in the next four years.

Vilsack is a highly regarded former governor and the Washington Post reported that Vilsack is a "shoo-in" for agriculture secretary, but the Organic Consumers Association has issued a statement that he is too pro-biotech and too close to Monsanto.

Other candidates also have surfaced. They include National Farmers Union President Tom Buis, former Iowa Republican Rep. Jim Leach, who crossed party lines to endorse Obama, and former Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Texas. Leach has much more experience in banking, however, and Obama has little reason to give the job to a Texan since Texas did not vote for him.

Confirmed leaders

The Obama transition office announced Nov. 14 that former USDA National Resources Conservation Service official Carole Jett and Bart Chilton, a Commodity Futures Trading Commission commissioner, would head the president-elect's transition team for the Agriculture Department.


Working under Jett and Chilton are Douglas Jake Caldwell, who analyzed agriculture at the Center for American Progress, a think tank with which former Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., is associated; Carol Clifford, a former assistant general counsel for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union; David Lazarus, the agriculture aide to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Mary McNeil, a former director of Native American programs at USDA; Karen Stuck, a retired head of the Food Safety and Inspection Service Office of International Affairs; Michael Taylor, the former administrator of FSIS; Dallas Tonsager, a Farm Credit Administration board member who headed Rural Development at USDA in the Clinton administration and is closely aligned with Daschle; and Christopher Wood, the chief operating officer of Trout Outlimited.

Chilton, Jett and their team are working under David J. Hayes, a deputy Interior secretary in the Clinton administration, who is in charge of the transition for the energy and natural resources agencies. Hayes is former global chair of the Environment, Land and Resources Department at Latham & Watkins, an international law firm. He is a senior fellow at the World Wildlife Fund, advising the president of WWF on climate change matters, and he is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, specializing on energy matters. He also is the vice chairman of the national conservation group, American Rivers, and he is the former chairman of the board of the Environmental Law Institute. During the 2007 to '08 academic year, Hayes was a consulting professor at Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment.

Other ag officials

Other transition officials of interest to agriculture at the same level as Hayes are:

- Reed Hundt, who is responsible for the international trade and economics agencies. He is a member of various boards of directors, a part-time senior adviser to McKinsey & Co., a strategic consulting firm, and an adviser to a number of firms. He served as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 1993 to 1997. Since that date, he has taught at Yale College, Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management, and Yale University Press has published two books written by him, "You Say You Want A Revolution: A Story of Information Age Politics" and "In China's Shadow: The Crisis of American Entrepreneurship."

- Michael Warren, who is helping to oversee the international trade and economics agencies. He is on partial leave from his role as chief operating officer of Stonebridge International L.L.C.., where he is a member of the firm's Management Committee. Before joining Stonebridge, Warren led corporate development at Horne Engineering Services and served as president of Appfluent Technologies. He also serves as chairman of Ironbridge Systems. He is on the Board of Directors of the District of Columbia Retirement Board, Catalist, the DC Minority Business Enterprise Center Advisory Board, Southeastern University's Center for Entrepreneurship, Civitas and the National Child Research Center. Warren previously worked at McKinsey & Co., both as a strategic consultant in the technology and financial institutions industries and as a fellow of the McKinsey Global Institute, advising corporate leaders in the U.S. and Asian semiconductor industries. He served within the White House as executive director of the president's National Economic Council.

- Joani Walsh is a member of the transition team that is reviewing a variety of federal agencies. Walsh worked with the Obama for America campaign in seven states in a variety of capacities -- organizing, coordinating the Virginia Obama Fellows program and directing constituency outreach. Before that, she served as executive director of FoodRoutes Network, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening regional, sustainable food and agricultural systems. Her experience also includes developing and managing AmeriCorps projects with an educational and environmental focus and working on international and domestic agriculture and rural development initiatives. Walsh graduated with a master's in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in 2007 and summa cum laude from Pennsylvania University in 1993.

Regulation agencies


Also working under Hayes will be:

- At the Energy Department, Elgie Holstein, who served in the Clinton administration as an assistant secretary of Commerce for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, associate director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science at the Office of Management & Budget; chief of staff at the Department of Energy; and special assistant to the president for economic policy at the National Economic Council. He also was director of state-federal relations for energy and environmental programs for the National Conference of State Legislatures and worked as a congressional aide.

- At the Environmental Protection Agency, Cecilia V. Estolano, the chief executive officer of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles. Before to joining CRA/LA, Estolano practiced land use and environmental law at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. She has served as a special assistant to the city attorney in the Los Angeles city attorney's office, a senior policy adviser to the assistant administrator for Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a member of the California Coastal Commission; Lisa Jackson, who was appointed in 2006 by Gov. Jon Corzine to lead New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection; and Robert Sussman, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and during the Clinton administration the deputy administrator at EPA, where he played a leading role on Superfund, global warming, science policy and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

- At the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Rose McKinney-James, the managing principal of Energy Works Consulting. She previously served as the president and CEO of the Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources and chaired the Nevada Renewable Energy Task Force. Past positions also include commissioner with the Nevada Public Service Commission, director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, chief of staff for the city of Las Vegas and project manager for the Nevada Economic Development Corp. McKinney-James serves on the board of directors of MGM-Mirage, Employers Insurance Group, Toyota Financial Savings Bank, the Energy Foundation, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and the Nature Conservancy.

At the Interior Department, Keith Harper, a partner and chairs the Native American Practice Group at Kilpatrick Stockton L.L.P. Before that, Harper was a litigator and head of the Washington office of the Native American Rights Fund. He is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Also at Interior, John Leshy, a professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Previously, he was Solicitor (General Counsel) of the U.S. Department of the Interior. He has been special Counsel to House Resources Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., and a professor of law at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Trade commission

Transition officials working on other agencies at the same level as Chilton and Jett at agriculture are:

- At the Commodity Future Trading Commission, James Johnson, a partner in the litigation department of Debevoise & Plimpton L.L.P., who focuses on white collar criminal defense, internal investigations, corporate compliance and corporate crisis management.


- Also at the CFTC, Anjan Mukherjee, a managing director with the Blackstone Group in the private equity area where he focuses on the evaluation and execution of a number of investments in a wide range of industries.

- At the International Trade Commission, Peter M. Shane, the Jacob E. Davis and Jacob E. Davis II chair in law at the Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law. His research focuses on separation of powers law, and on the Internet and the future of democracy.

- At the Council on Environmental Quality, George Frampton, a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner. During the Clinton administration he served as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and before that as assistant secretary of the Interior.

A list of all appointees may be found on the Obama transition Web site, .

What To Read Next
Get Local