Lillian Salerno was appointed by President Obama as Deputy Under Secretary on August 7, 2015.
As Deputy Under Secretary for the Rural Development Mission Area, she oversees the development of strategies and policy initiatives. A former entrepreneur, business owner, and small town lawyer, she understands the unique challenges facing our food systems, the bioeconomy, and capital investments that are critical in supporting and strengthening America's rural communities.
Previously serving as Administrator of Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS), Salerno oversaw numerous business development programs that obligated over $11 billion in grants and guaranteed loans over the last six years and a multitude of programs that spur economic development and job growth throughout rural America. Her focus has been on strengthening economic development capacity in rural communities including initiatives for job creation, increased access to capital, regional collaboration, and energy efficiency. Salerno further promotes Secretary Vilsack's vision for strengthening the bioeconomy and supporting local and regional foods. During her tenure at USDA, Salerno has participated on The White House Business Council and played a crucial role in support of several Administration initiatives including: Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP), Made in Rural America, Rural Opportunity Investment Initiative, Advanced Manufacturing, and Small Business Credit Initiatives.
Prior to her service in the federal government, Salerno successfully founded an advanced manufacturing company which started with a Small Business Innovation Grant making her a fierce advocate for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Salerno has an extensive work history in the private sector, both in the U.S. and abroad. As the Executive Director for the Safe Healthcare International Institute, she encouraged policy makers, federal agencies, and the Executive Branch to formulate solutions for the protection of healthcare workers and delivery systems while building coalitions to promote long-term HIV/AIDS prevention internationally. As a rural business champion, Salerno continues to use her business expertise and political platform to engage stakeholders, advocate for underrepresented groups, and improve regional collaboration.
Salerno grew up in rural Texas, where her manufacturing business continues to thrive and support the local economy. Deputy Under Secretary Salerno attained a B.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of Texas, a Master's Degree in Sociology from the University of North Texas, and a J.D. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.