USDA appoints Rural Development officers
The Trump administration has appointed Gina Sheets as the chief innovation officer in the Rural Development mission area, while Marie Wheat will serve as Rural Development’s director of external affairs, Anne Hazlett, the assistant for rural development to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced on Nov. 20.
A long-time small business owner, Sheets served as a local elected official at the start of her career and later as director of agriculture under Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, now vice president.
In addition to her economic development and local leadership experience, Sheets and her husband served as volunteers in Liberia, where she was responsible for coordinating a farmer-to-farmer capacity building program and extending agriculture education and small business development practices.
As chief innovation officer, Sheets will oversee the creation and management of the Rural Development Innovation Center, a team within Rural Development working to streamline, modernize and strengthen the delivery of Rural Development tools effectively and efficiently, Hazlett said.
The Innovation Center will focus on improving customer service to rural communities and increasing rural prosperity through strategic partnerships, capacity-building, data analytics and evaluation, and regulatory reform, Hazlett added.
Wheat will manage Rural Development’s legislative and public affairs.
She grew up in a small town in South Carolina, is currently an industry economist for USDA and oversees delivery of the Department’s BioPreferred Program.
Before coming to USDA, Wheat served as chief of staff and chief operating officer of the U.S. Peace Corps, overseeing global operations as well as congressional and public affairs for the Peace Corps.
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