U.S. President Biden Announces Key Regional Appointments for USDA, HUD, and FEMA

The White House

WASHINGTON – Today, President Joe Biden announced that he has appointed the following individuals to serve in key regional leadership roles at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the Department of Homeland Security:

  • David Baker, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Delaware & Maryland
  • Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Illinois
  • Kate Bolz, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Nebraska
  • Brian Murray, USDA State Director, Rural Development, New York
  • Arlisa Armstrong, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Tennessee
  • Doris Washington, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Arkansas
  • Scott Halpin, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Illinois
  • Sherry Hamel, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Maine
  • Benancio Cano Jr., USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Texas
  • Dominique Jackson, HUD Regional Administrator, Region 8
  • Andrea Spillars, FEMA Regional Administrator, Region 7

These regional appointees will be critical to the President’s efforts to rebuild communities most impacted by the pandemic, the economic recovery, and climate change. They bring deep expertise in their issue areas as well as critical relationships with federal, state, tribal, and local leaders. And, consistent with the President’s commitment to building an administration that looks like America, these regional appointees represent the diversity of American and the communities they serve.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA)

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency implements agricultural policy, administers credit and loan programs, and manages conservation, commodity, disaster, and farm marketing programs in each U.S. State. Its mission is to equitably serve all farmers, ranchers, and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective, efficient agricultural programs for all Americans. State Executive Directors oversee this work, ensuring the needs of local constituents are met and that USDA resources are distributed equitably and fairly.

USDA’s Rural Development mission area is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America. State Directors lead offices that offer grants, loans, and loan guarantees to help create jobs and support economic development and essential services.

David B. Baker, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Delaware and Maryland

Mr. Baker previously worked for the Sussex County Delaware government for over 33 years primarily as Finance Director and County Administrator. His USDA grantee experience includes financing numerous new wastewater and community facility projects. One of those projects, the West Rehoboth Sewer project was the second largest project funded ever by the USDA at that time. He also has economic development experience in helping businesses prosper in a rural area. Since then, he has served on various non-profit organization Boards and assisted them with Rural Development funds for their projects in Sussex County.

Mr. Baker’s goal is to ensure that Maryland and Delaware rural communities are aware of and are able to take full advantage of the many Rural Development programs that are available. This will improve economic opportunities as well as enhance the environment and living conditions which will help these communities prosper. He is a lifelong Delaware resident. He graduated from the University of Delaware with Bachelor’s Degrees in Accounting and Sociology and an MBA from Wilmington College.

Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Illinois

Betsy Dirksen Londrigan is a graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and former Director at the University of Illinois Springfield. She brings over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, working with community, regional and state leaders to effect positive change. She is a lifelong resident of Springfield, Illinois and is proud that her family members still own and operate the centennial farm in Central Illinois where her grandmother was raised. Dirksen Londrigan is committed to working with rural communities to bring investments to every corner of Illinois to support local and regional initiatives to power economic development and grow local economies.

Kate Bolz, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Nebraska

A proud 6th generation Nebraskan, Kate Bolz grew up on a family farm in Otoe County, Nebraska. Bolz brings extensive economic and community development experience. Most recently, she served as the Mayoral Aide for Economic Development for the City of Lincoln, Nebraska where she focused on workforce training and small business development programs. Previously, she served as a State Senator, leading efforts to invest in higher education and economic development as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Economic Development Task Force.

In addition to her legislative work, she served as the Executive Director of the Nebraska Association of Service Providers (an association of community-based disability service providers) and as an adjunct professor at Union College. Kate earned a bachelor’s degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University and a master’s in social work from the University of Michigan.

Brian Murray, USDA State Director, Rural Development, New York

Brian Murray has been with USDA Rural Development for the past 19 years. He started with the agency in 2002 as a Loan Specialist in the Canton, NY field office. In 2007 he became an Area Director serving New York from the state’s Southern Tier to the Canadian Border. Brian served on the USDA RD Community Economic Development task team in Washington D.C. in 2013/14 and in 2020 became the Associate Enterprise Director for New York.

Brian is a lifelong New Yorker, originally from rural Peterboro, NY and currently resides in Lisbon, NY. He graduated from the State University of New York at Potsdam and holds a B.A. in Financial Economics. Prior to coming to USDA RD, Brian worked for a local banking institution as a commercial lending officer for more than 15 years. Brian has served on the St. Lawrence County Planning Board for the past 12 years, recently as the Chairman. He is active in his local fire department serving as an interior firefighter and member of the rescue squad.

Arlisa Armstrong, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Tennessee

Arlisa Armstrong has spent nearly three decades working in rural development. A native of Haywood County, TN, Arlisa has served in a variety of USDA Rural Development roles in Tennessee and served as Area Director for West TN from 2010 to 2021. In this position, Arlisa served as a key member of the State Director’s staff and fully participated in the planning, development, and implementation of rural development and rural assistance programs. She led rural development initiatives throughout a 12- county servicing area by formulating objectives and allocating the necessary resources available to effectively implement residential, business, commercial and profit/non-profit loan and grant making authorities for direct and guaranteed lending programs available from USDA. In 2020 and 2021, Arlisa also served as the USDA Area Director of the TN Pilot Program, where she provided support to Program and Area Directors across Tennessee by implementing portfolio management and servicing for the Community Programs Division, providing updates for the National Director of Community Facility Portfolio Management, and more.

Arlisa earned her degree in Business Administration at Middle Tennessee State University. She is a graduate of the Delta Regional Institute Leadership Class of 2011, and the Haywood County TN Leadership class of 2006.

Doris Washington, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Arkansas

Doris Washington previously served as the Acting Deputy Chief for Management and Strategy for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Prior to serving as the Acting Deputy Chief, she served as the USDA Director for the National Water Management Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Doris has over 34 years with USDA as an expert in crops and natural resources science. She has hands on experience serving as a District Conservationist, Acting State Conservationist and National Team Leader for Administrative Transformation for NRCS. Doris has obtained many awards throughout her career including the USDA Honors Award for change management within the federal agency. She is a United States Army National Guard Veteran with over 10 years of service as an Officer in the Arkansas Army National Guard.

Scott Halpin, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Illinois

Scott owns and operates Halpin Farms and Halpin Farms Cattle in conjunction with his parents and brother. The farm is primarily a row-crop operation in a corn and soybean rotation, but also includes hay and silage production. In addition to the full-time demands of the farm, Scott follows a long family tradition of civic engagement, achieving many leadership positions within local and state level agricultural organizations. He serves as the Kendall Grundy County Farm Bureau president after leading the two counties through the complicated process of merging their memberships. During his ten-year service on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) and Country Financial, Scott served a term as chairman for the Member Services and Public Relations committee. Scott earlier served as Chairman of the IFB Young Leaders and was also a director and later president of the Grundy County Soil and Water Conservation District. Scott is also a member of Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Beef Association.

Scott recently traveled to Kenya and Israel to learn about international trade issues as a member of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program Class of 2020. He made similar agricultural market study tours to Vietnam with the Illinois Farm Bureau and to Germany with the German American Chamber of Commerce. Scott served on Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s agricultural transition team. He received an Associate’s Degree in Agriculture Production from Joliet Junior College and was an adjunct instructor for the college concerning dairy science. Scott and his wife, Sarah, live in South Wilmington, Ill., with their three children Ty, Grace, and Cale.

Sherry Hamel, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Maine

Sherry Hamel is a career employee of the USDA, Farm Service Agency (FSA) with over 29 years of service to the agricultural community in Maine. Hamel began her career with FSA in 1992 while attending the University of Maine where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree. Throughout her career with FSA she has held multiple roles from Legal Assistant and Farm Loan Specialist to Executive Officer. Hamel was appointed as the Acting State Executive Director in January 2021. She is a native of eastern Maine where she currently resides with her family.

Benancio Cano Jr., USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Texas

Benancio Cano, Jr. is a native of Pharr, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. He graduated from Texas A&M University Kingsville in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics. He began his FSA career in October of 1994 as a County Operations Trainee, in 1995 he served as the Starr County CED until 2002 when he became the District Director for the southern area of Texas overseeing 14 county offices and 2 farm loan offices.

He and his wife Sonia have three children Sidney Larae, Dennis Benjamin and Sabrina LaNae and have a Registered Cattle Operation. They enjoy volunteering in several organizations that help the youth in agriculture.

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT (HUD)

Regional Administrators lead HUD’s 10 Regional Offices that directly serve state and local organizations. Regional Administrators oversee field offices across each state in their region, and ensure the Department directly serves local communities. Regional Administrators play a key role in leading assignments of housing assistance funds within the region and coordinating those assignments with HUD headquarters.

Dominique Jackson, HUD Regional Administrator, Region 8

State Representative Dominique Jackson was elected to represent House District 42 in Aurora, Colorado in November of 2016. Representative Jackson currently serves as Chair of the Transformational Housing Task Force, which is charged with administering $400 billion dollars in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds throughout the state. She is also the former Chair of the Energy & Environment Committee. In addition, Representative Jackson was appointed to serve on Governor Jared Polis’ Economic Stabilization & Growth Council to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also serves on the Colorado Workforce Development Council, as well as several national organizations including: The Executive Committee of “The Energy Council,” the Executive Committee of the Council of State Governments, and is the State Lead for the National Conference of Environmental Legislators.

Representative Jackson also has an extensive history of serving communities in both Aurora and Denver. She has served as a commissioner on Aurora’s “Community Housing & Development” Commission, and as a member of “Aurora Warms the Night,” Denver’s “Commission on Homelessness” and is a founding member of Denver’s “Sustainability Advisory Council.” She also served on the Curriculum Advisory Council for the Department of Technical Communications, Journalism & Digital Media at Metropolitan State University.

Representative Jackson earned a B.A. In Communications from Denver’s Metropolitan State University and has completed all coursework towards her M.A. in International & Intercultural Communications from the University of Denver. Representative Jackson also spent time working in the Denver-Metro area as a communications consultant before embarking on a political career.

Region 8 serves Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Regional Administrators lead FEMA’s 10 Regional offices that oversee federal emergency readiness and preparedness in several states and territories. These Regional offices provide key planning and coordination support to respond to federal emergencies. Regional offices also handle evaluation of community applications for FEMA funding for public assistance, hazard mitigation assistance, and preparedness grants.

Andrea Spillars, FEMA Regional Administrator, Region 7

Andrea Spillars has been a career public servant for over 30 years. From 2009 to 2015, she had a lead role in the Missouri state response to natural disasters as the Deputy Director for the Department of Public Safety, including the devasting Joplin tornado in 2011, the prolonged flooding in 2011, drought relief efforts in 2012, and historic ice storms in 2009. Her work at the Department of Public Safety also included leading the state’s successful effort to establish an interoperable public safety communication system. Throughout her career, she has worked to protect the people of Missouri, especially during times of disaster. In 2011, the Joplin Police Department recognized Spillars for her work leading the successful round-the-clock effort to account for those reported missing after the Joplin tornado. In 2014, Spillars received the Patrick Henry Award from the National Guard Association of the United States, which is presented to those civilians in a position of responsibility who have distinguished themselves with outstanding and exceptional service to the U.S. Armed Forces or the National Guard.

From 2015 to 2017, Spillars served as Senior Advisor and Legal Counsel in the Missouri Governor’s Office, and ultimately as Counsel to the Governor. She began her career as an attorney in the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, serving from 1989 to 1995 and again from 1997 to 2009. While at the Attorney General’s Office, she was Chief Counsel and Director of Public Safety Division from 2004 to 2009, providing legal representation to the Missouri Department of Public Safety. She has also served as assistant prosecuting attorney in Boone County and General Counsel for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Missouri Board of Law Examiners, overseeing all aspects of the attorney admissions process.

She obtained her law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and her undergraduate degree from the University of Central Missouri.

Region 8 serves Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

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