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Interior Secretary and Ag Secretary appointments

by Colby Marshall form OR Congressman Greg Walden's office 12/17/08

Hello everyone – today President-elect Obama selected Colorado Senator Ken Salazar (D) as the incoming Interior Department Secretary and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (D) as the incoming Agriculture Department Secretary.  Both individuals still need to be confirmed by a vote of the full Senate.  Below is information on these Secretary selections clipped for Energy and Environment Daily press accounts, biographical information posted on their websites, and Wikipedia:

Interior Department Secretary - Senator Ken Salazar (CO-D)

·       Senator Salazar is a fifth-generation Coloradan.  Salazar's parents served in World War II - his mother in the War Department in Washington D.C. and his father as a staff sergeant in the United States Army. After the war, they returned to the San Luis Valley to ranch.  Salazar has been a rancher for more than thirty years and helped form the El Rancho Salazar partnership in 1981. He and his wife have owned and operated small businesses, including a Dairy Queen and radio stations in Pueblo and Denver. He practiced water and environmental law in the private sector for eleven years. And he has served as the Colorado Attorney General and as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.  Salazar narrowly defeated beer executive Pete Coors of the Coors Brewing Company to win the general election for the senate seat (margin was 51.3 percent to 47.4 percent). Senator Salazar’s older brother, John Salazar, was elected to the United States Congress in November 2004 from Colorado's 3rd Congressional District.

·       On May 23, 2005, Salazar was among the Gang of 14 moderate senators to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the filibuster against judicial appointments, thus blocking the Republican leadership's attempt to implement the so-called "nuclear option". Under the agreement, the Democrats would retain the power to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee only in an "extraordinary circumstance", and the three most conservative Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William Pryor) would receive a vote by the full Senate.

·       In 2005, Salazar voted against increasing fuel-efficiency standards (CAFE) for cars and trucks, a vote that the League of Conservation Voters notes is anti-environment. In the same year, Salazar voted against an amendment to repeal tax breaks for ExxonMobil and other major oil companies.

·       In 2006, Salazar voted to end protections that limit off-shore drilling in Florida's Gulf Coast.

·       In 2007, Salazar was one of only a handful of Democrats to vote against a bill that would require the US Army Corps of Engineers to consider global warming when planning water projects.

·       He also supported the Bush Administration's release of lands in the Conservation Reserve Program for emergency haying in Colorado's Yuma and Phillips Counties.


·       William Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society, called the choice "excellent." And several groups today also praised Salazar's support for the National Landscape Conservation System and other conservation measures.

·       League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski also lauded the choice.  Salazar has earned a lifetime LCV score of 81 percent.

·       Defenders of Wildlife said Salazar has had an "increasingly strong" environmental voting record in the Senate and that it is "hopeful" that he will respond effectively to Interior's challenges.

·       "He is also a lifelong advocate of a multi-use approach to managing our public land and accessing safely the resources that reside beneath it," said Barry Russell, president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. "The livelihoods of thousands of independent oil and gas operators in this country remain inextricably linked to that access, and that's a point we intend to make early, often and with purpose as this new administration begins to take shape."

·       Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) called the choice "superb."

·       Current Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said Salazar is an "excellent selection."

Agriculture Department Secretary - Governor Tom Vilsack (IA-D)

·       Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Tom Vilsack was orphaned at birth and placed in a Roman Catholic orphanage. He was adopted in 1951 by Bud and Dolly Vilsack.  His adoptive father was a real-estate agent and insurance salesman, and his adoptive mother was a homemaker.  He received a bachelor's degree in 1972 from Hamilton College in New York.  He received a J.D. in 1975 from Albany Law School. He and his wife, Ann Bell moved to rural Mount Pleasant, Iowa, her hometown, where he joined his father-in-law in law practice.  Vilsack was elected mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa in 1987, following the murder of mayor Ed King by a disgruntled citizen. He was elected to the Iowa State Senate in 1992 by a relatively slim margin. Following election, 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 re-design 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.  On November 30, 2006, Vilsack became the second democrat (after Mike Gravel) to officially announce intentions to run for the presidency in 2008.  Vilsack dropped out of the race on February 23, 2007 citing money issues. 

·       As governor of Iowa, he advocated for biofuels, agricultural biotechnology, conservation programs and stronger water quality standards.

·       "He's been outspoken on the need for farm subsidy reform and an advocate for conservation programs, which is encouraging," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said.

·       National Farmers Union President Tom Buis, once thought a contender for the post, said Vilsack is a "great choice" who would be "right on target" to advance a rural platform with more renewable energy development.

·       Vilsack follows a recent line of former Midwestern governors at the Agriculture Department. Current Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer had once been governor of North Dakota. The previous Bush appointee, Mike Johanns, was formally governor of Nebraska.


Colby Marshall
Eastern Oregon Office Director 
Congressman Greg Walden (OR-02)
1211 Washington Avenue
La Grande, OR 97850  
541-624-2400 (phone)
541-624-2402 (fax)

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