WASHINGTON – Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to serve in key regional roles at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services (HHS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- Kyle Wilkens, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Missouri
- Rhiannon Hampson, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Maine
- Jim Barber, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, New York
- John Perdue, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, West Virginia
- Sima Ladjevardian, HHS Regional Director, Region 6
- Earthea Nance, EPA Regional Administrator, Region 6
- Meg McCollister, EPA Regional Administrator, Region 7
- Martha Guzman, EPA Regional Administrator, Region 9
- Diane Shelley, HUD Regional Administrator, Region 5
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.
Kyle Wilkens, State Director, Rural Development, Missouri
Kyle Wilkens is a native of rural west-central Missouri and a committed public servant. Since 2012, he has served on the congressional staff for Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri as his Rural Policy Director, and from 2002 to 2011, he served on the staff of Congressman Ike Skelton, also of Missouri. Both Congressmen represented his home district, keeping with Kyle’s lifelong commitment to Missouri. He has extensive experience working with elected officials, community leaders, USDA and agencies at all levels of government on local economic development and rural development programs. Wilkens holds a Master of Arts degree from Missouri State University.
Rhiannon Hampson, State Director, Rural Development, Maine
Rhiannon Hampson brings decades of advocacy and community engagement experience to her role at USDA, Rural Development. Raised in some of the most rural pockets of the state, Rhiannon is a proud graduate of the University of Maine at Machias where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Community Studies. While serving as (ME-01) Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s District Representative for Agricultural and Environmental issues, Rhiannon had the opportunity to deepen her knowledge of Maine’s heritage industries, and the ways in which USDA uplifts rural communities. With her partner Gregg, and their two children Ruby and Maden, she owns and operates an organic livestock and dairy farm in Knox County. Rhiannon’s experience as a small business owner further informs her understanding of, and dedication to advancing Maine’s sustainable economic development.
Jim Barber, State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, New York
James Barber is the fifth generation to operate his family’s 500-acre highly diversified vegetable farm and greenhouse operation. Mr. Barber’s years of dedication to the agriculture industry include serving on Cornell University’s College of Agriculture Advisory Board, the New York Farm Bureau State Board of Directors, and as President of the NY State Vegetable Growers Association. Jim was a founding member and President of NY Farms; a forward-thinking organization which brought together non-traditional partners in the food system to work toward common goals and created the very first Farm to School program in the country.
During the Obama-Biden Administration, Mr. Barber served as the New York State Executive Director of the Farm Service Agency (FSA). During his eight years as head of the New York FSA, Mr. Barber made improvements in the Farm Loan program with dramatically increased efficiency. He was proactive in reaching out to minority and underserved communities, from urban farms in New York City to the sovereign Native American nations across the state. And he initiated nationally recognized changes in the scope and delivery of farm programs to expanded opportunities for all farmers, large and small, rural and urban.
John Perdue, State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, West Virginia
John Perdue started his public service career with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture as a pesticide inspector. During his time there he held several positions, including the title of Assistant Commissioner. In 1989, he became the Executive Assistant to former West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton, and served as a member of his executive staff for eight years. Mr. Perdue was elected as the 24th State Treasurer of West Virginia in 1996 and served six terms. As State Treasurer he established the SMART 529 college savings plan to help West Virginians pay for college. When he left office, the program had grown to over three billion dollars with more than 150,000 families invested in the program. John is a 1972 graduate of West Virginia University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture. He grew up on a small family farm in Boone County where they grew tobacco and small fruits and vegetables. He was active in 4-H and FFA where he became a 4-H All Star and earned his state FFA farmers degree. He credits his time in 4-H and FFA for his love of farming. John and his wife Robin reside in Cross Lanes, West Virginia and have two adult daughters.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (HHS)
Regional Directors lead HHS’s 10 Regional Offices that directly serve state and local organizations. Regional Directors ensure the Department maintains close contact with state, local, and tribal partners and addresses the needs of communities and individuals served through HHS programs and policies.
Sima Ladjevardian, HHS Regional Director, Region 6
Sima Ladjevardian is a lawyer, a mother of two, a breast cancer survivor, a community and political activist. She was one of the first Iranian-American major party nominees for Congress. She ran in TX-2 on providing affordable access to health care for all. After leaving political upheaval and revolution, Sima’s family arrived in the United States and, through her journey as an immigrant, she saw first-hand the power and promise this country can provide. She has since worked extensively to ensure that hardworking families have all the opportunities to strive and be healthy. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Economics from UCLA and a Juris Doctorate degree from Hastings College of Law. She has actively served on the Boards of Every Texan, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Society of Iranian American Women for Education, AAPI Victory Alliance and the City of Houston Women’s Commission.
Region 6 is based in Dallas and serves Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, as well as 68 federally recognized tribal nations.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)
Regional Administrators lead the EPA’s 10 regional offices around the country, each of which is responsible for the execution of EPA programs within a set of several states and territories. EPA regional offices also ensure the views and needs of each region are incorporated into the formulation of agency and national policy.
Earthea Nance, EPA Regional Administrator, Region 6
Dr. Earthea Nance is an associate professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University in Houston. She was formerly the director of disaster mitigation and planning for the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where she developed and implemented the City’s first approved plans for hazard mitigation, sustainability, and green energy. For the past 15 years, Dr. Nance has conducted interdisciplinary research on the impacts of environmental hazards on vulnerable communities in Texas and Louisiana. Dr. Nance earned a Ph.D. degree in environmental engineering from Stanford University, as well as master’s and bachelor degrees from the University of California-Davis. She has been a registered professional civil engineer for 25 years and a certified floodplain manager for 12 years.
Region 6 serves Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations.
Meg McCollister, EPA Regional Administrator, Region 7
Meg McCollister has a strong advisory and advocacy background with nearly two decades of experience serving non-profits, candidates for public office and public policy campaigns. She has focused as an advisor, manager, and strategic thinker with an expertise in environmental advocacy, health care access for low-income populations, and community organizing. Ms. McCollister served for several years as an advisor to local elected officials in California, where she was appointed as an ex-officio member of the Sonoma County Democratic Party and served on the Board of Directors of Sonoma County Conservation Action. Upon returning to the Midwest, she has continued to advise on a wide variety of issues including environmental, health and social improvement initiatives, communication strategies, and community engagement.
A native Midwesterner, Ms. McCollister was born in Kansas and raised in Kansas and Missouri. She completed her Bachelors Degree at the University of Kansas, and then attended the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law, where she earned her Juris Doctorate with an emphasis in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law.
Region 7 serves Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and nine Tribal Nations.
Martha Guzman, EPA Regional Administrator, Region 9
Martha Guzman has served as a Commissioner at the California Public Utilities Commission for the last 5 years, appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown. Her portfolio included issues related to fiscal oversight of utilities, broadband for all, water affordability, increasing access to clean energy programs for Disadvantaged Communities and preventing disconnections of basic utilities. She spearheaded the Interagency Solar Consumer Protection Taskforce, the Tribal Land Policy, and Covid Arrears Response.
Prior to joining the CPUC she served as Deputy Legislative Affairs Secretary in the Office of the Governor where she worked on the passage for the Human Right to Water, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, re-organized the Safe Drinking Water Program, climate goals related to short-lived climate pollutants and renewable energy legislation. Earlier in her career, she was Sustainable Communities program director for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. She worked for Swanton Berry Farm on human resource issues, and before that, she was the legislative coordinator for United Farm Workers.
Region 9 serves Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, and 148 Tribal Nations.
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.
Diane Shelley, HUD Regional Administrator, Region 5
Diane Shelley served fifteen years as an Illinois state court judge, resolving complex business, construction, housing, and employment disputes. She was president of the Illinois Judges Association, the Illinois Judicial Council, and appointed to Illinois Supreme Court commission for mental health specialty courts and commission on legal professionalism. Prior to her judicial career she headed litigation at one of the world’s largest wastewater treatment agencies, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, overseeing controversies regarding the construction of the country’s largest public works project, the Deep Tunnel.
Region 5 serves Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.