September 22, 2014

Iowa politico, federal utility regulator John Norris heads to Rome for USDA

An Iowa who’s been a federal utility regulator for the past few years is headed to Rome, to serve as a sort of ambassador for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

John Norris has a long political resume in Iowa, reaching back to the 1988 Iowa Caucuses when he managed Jesse Jackson’s fourth place campaign. He also managed John Kerry’s winning Iowa Caucus campaign in 2004. Norris has also served as an aide to Senator Tom Harkin and former Congressman Leonard Boswell in Des Moines and Washington, D.C. and he has served in several roles for former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, the current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Norris helped steer Vilsack’s 1998 campaign for governor from his role as chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party and then Norris served in Vilsack’s statehouse office as Vilsack’s first chief of staff.

Norris has been a U.S. Federal Regulatory Commissioner since 2010, but he submitted his resignation this week and will become minister-counselor for the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service in Rome.

Norris’ wife, Jackie, and their three sons will move to Rome with Norris. Jackie Norris managed Barack Obama’s 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign and served as First Lady Michelle Obama’s first chief of staff. Jackie Norris, a teacher, is currently serving as executive director of the Points of Light Corporate Institute, an outgrowth of former Republican President George H.W. Bush’s initiative to recognize the top volunteers in the country.

John Norris, who grew up on a farm, is a native of Red Oak, Iowa. After graduating from Simpson College, he led the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition during the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. He earned a law degree from the University of Iowa in 1996.  In 2002, Norris ran for congress and lost to Republican Congressman Tom Latham.