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News Release

Release No. 0109.09
Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

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Secretary Tom Vilsack Announces Staff Appointments at U.S. Department of Agriculture

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced 14 appointments to key staff positions in the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Washington, D.C.

"These individuals, representing diverse backgrounds, strengths and skills, are a dynamic team prepared to address the issues facing 21st century food and agriculture," said Vilsack. "They are committed to the President's goals for a prosperous rural America and a strong American agriculture and they believe that U.S. agriculture must play a leadership role in tackling the nation's renewable energy challenges. They will be a great asset to USDA's missions and agencies and I look forward to working with them."


Sally Cluthe, Acting Director of Scheduling and Advance. Cluthe most recently consulted for the office of Senator Jeff Merkley (D) of Oregon. She has served as Director of Scheduling for the Obama Campaign for Change in New Hampshire and, earlier, for Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) of Minnesota. Before that, Cluthe was Scheduler for Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) of Michigan and Senator Bill Nelson (D) of Florida. She has also held a number of positions in the office of Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey. Cluthe grew up in Naples, Florida and is a graduate of Florida State University, Tallahassee.

Malcolm Eve, Advance Lead. A native of Buffalo, New York, Eve was most recently a Senior Event Coordinator for the Washington Speakers Bureau in Alexandria, Va. He was Deputy Director of Scheduling and Advance for Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala during the Clinton Administration. Eve also served as lead advance for the presidential campaign of former Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in 2008 and for the 2004 Kerry/Edwards ticket for the presidency and vice presidency. Eve was a part-time advance person for President Bill Clinton (D-AR) from 1996-2001. He graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo.


Cristina Chiappe, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary. Chiappe most recently served as Latino Vote Director for the Obama for America Campaign in Virginia and was an Obama National Delegate to the National Convention. Before joining the campaign in Virginia, Chiappe was a Research Associate at the Institute for Educational Leadership's National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth in Washington, D.C. She has been an advocate for the Latino and Asian communities through her work as an educator, policy analyst and human rights worker. Chiappe graduated from the University of Virginia and has an social foundations of education, also from UVA. A native of Lima, Peru, Chiappe is fluent in four languages.


Elisabeth Reiter, Confidential Assistant to the Under Secretary. Most recently, Reiter was Deputy Director of Advance for the Obama for America campaign. She worked previously on the successful campaigns of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) in 2005 and Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) in 2006. She also worked on Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) 2004 presidential bid. Reiter is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.


Nathan Blake, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary. Blake practiced law in Des Moines, Iowa, before working for the Obama campaign as a field organizer and researcher. He is a native Californian who grew up in Lincoln, Nebr., and graduated from Union College in Lincoln. He also holds a law degree from Yale Law School and a master's degree from Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn.

Norah Deluhery, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary. Deluhery worked in New York City at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business before joining the Obama campaign as a field organizer in rural north central Iowa. Raised in Davenport, Iowa, she graduated from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.


Lisa Bertelson-Special Assistant to the Under Secretary. Bertelson was recently a research associate for the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, focusing on policy analysis, zoning issues, and government outreach. She has served on the staff of former Senator, now President, Barack Obama (D-IL). Bertelson is a native of Wisconsin, where much of her family still farms, and holds a degree in political science and German from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Luke Knowles, Confidential Assistant to the Under Secretary. Knowles worked for the Obama-Biden Transition Project and volunteered on the Obama Campaign focusing on energy and environmental policy. He is from Anchorage and Juneau, Alaska, and graduated in May 2008 from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in New Haven, Connecticut.

Livia Marqués, Special Assistant for Horticultural Crops. Marqués is a 17-year veteran of USDA. She has served as the State Conservationist of Nevada, as a National Plant Materials Specialist, and as a National Technical Leader for Specialty Crops, all with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. She holds a B.S. degree in horticultural science from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Marqués is from Hialeah, Florida.


Meryl Raymar Harrell, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary. Most recently, Harrell served as the State Political Outreach Director for the Obama Campaign for Change in Wisconsin. She previously worked as the Public Lands Associate at The Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C. Harrell is a graduate of Yale Law School, New Haven, Connecticut, where she studied environmental law. She graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. in geosciences and environmental studies from Princeton University. She is from Watchung, N.J.


Stacey Brayboy, Director of Economic and Community Development. Brayboy was most recently a member of the transition team for President Obama and Vice President Biden. She worked with the Obama for America campaign for 20 months, serving as State Director in South Carolina and Virginia during the presidential primary and Deputy State Director in Indiana and Virginia during the general election. Before joining the campaign, Brayboy was Governor Tim Kaine's (D-VA) appointee as Deputy Director of the Virginia Council on Human Rights. Brayboy, a native of Manning, S.C., has 13 years of experience in various levels of government. She served on the staffs of former Senators Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Fritz Hollings (D-SC), former Congressman Robin Tallon (D-SC) and Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC). She holds a bachelor's degree from Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina, and a master's of public administration from Clark Atlanta University in Georgia.

Shayna Cherry, Confidential Assistant to the Administrator of Rural Business and Cooperative Services. A Chicago native, Cherry served recently as an associate in White House Personnel. She was a Regional Field Director for South Florida during the general election for the Obama campaign. Cherry joined the Obama campaign in the New Hampshire primary and worked through six other primaries across the country. She was also a Deputy Finance Director for the 2006 campaign of Congresswoman Melissa Bean (D-IL). Cherry has worked on multiple issue-based campaigns, including preserving social security and Women's Voices. Women Vote. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Tim Gannon, Confidential Assistant to the Administrator of Housing Programs. Gannon most recently served as the Deputy Political Director for the Obama-Biden campaign in Iowa. He previously led Iowa efforts for "Ask the Candidates About Darfur," a national campaign of the Genocide Intervention Network. Gannon, a native of Mingo, Iowa, has also worked for the Iowa House Democrats as Caucus Director. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Liz Purchia, Confidential Assistant to the Administrator of Rural Business and Cooperative Services. Purchia comes to USDA from the Presidential Inaugural Committee where she was an Assistant to the Director in the Office of the President-Elect. She was also a field organizer in Iowa for the Obama campaign, managing the office and field operations for Muscatine County. Before joining the campaign, Purchia was an account executive at Hill & Knowlton in Washington, D.C., where she worked on the public affairs team. Before that, she was an intern for the international affairs team at Edelman Public Relations in Washington, D.C. Purchia graduated from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, with a major in world politics.