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U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Key Staff Appointments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the names of individuals who will hold senior staff positions in Washington, D.C.

Maribel Duran was named Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in the Office of the Secretary. Duran recently served as Managing Director for Equity and Inclusion for the Aspen Institute, as well as Chief of Staff for its Leadership Division. From 2018-2019, she was co-chair of the Institute’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. Previously, Duran served eight years in the Obama Administration, first as Special Assistant to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, then as Chief of Staff for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and ultimately as Chief of Staff for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. She began her career at the Chicago Public Schools. She was the first Latina board trustee at Southern New Hampshire University, a New America Latino National Security and Foreign Policy Next Generation Leader, and a Center for American Progress U.S.-Mexico Leaders Initiative Member. She holds a bachelor's from Southern New Hampshire University.

Mickeala Carter was named Deputy Director of Communications in the Office of Communications. Most recently, Carter served as Director of Communications and External Affairs for the House Agriculture Committee where she worked for Chairman David Scott. Previous to that, she served as Outreach Coordinator for the Committee under Chairman Collin Peterson. Prior to that, Carter served as Communications Director and Senior Legislative Assistant to Congressman Filemon Vela of Texas. She grew up in DeSoto, Texas, and holds a bachelor’s in agricultural leadership and development from Texas A&M University.

Lynn Overmann was named Senior Advisor for Data and Technology in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration. Most recently, she served as a Senior Data Strategist for Opportunity Insights, which sought to expand economist Dr. Raj Chetty’s pioneering research harnessing big data to improve upward mobility in America. Prior to that, Overmann served as Vice President for Data-Driven Justice and Head of the DC Office for Arnold Ventures. In the Obama Administration, she served as Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Office in the White House, Deputy Chief Data Officer at the Department of Commerce, and in several roles at the Department of Justice. She holds a juris doctor degree from New York University School of Law and a bachelor’s from Bryn Mawr College.

Bidisha Bhattacharyya was named Senior Policy Advisor in the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Previously, Bhattacharyya served as director for Climate and Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress. Prior to joining American Progress, she was Vice President of Emerging Markets at the impact-investment firm Village Capital. She previously spent three years deploying solar energy solutions in rural India with the technology startup Simpa Networks. Bhattacharyya spent four years on Capitol Hill as Senior Energy and Agriculture Policy Adviser to Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and as Energy and Agriculture Legislative Assistant for Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota. She holds a master’s degree from Harvard University and a bachelor’s from St. Olaf College.

Valerie McMakin was named Legislative Analyst in the Office of Congressional Relations. McMakin recently served as a Legislative Assistant for Senator Jon Tester of Montana. She held several roles in Senator Tester’s office, including Staff Assistant, Assistant to the Chief of Staff and Legislative Correspondent. She is a graduate of Emory University.


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