Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack plans to “run through the tape” when his eight-year tenure as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture draws to a close.
Vilsack’s the only member of President Obama’s cabinet who remains in the office where he started in January of 2009.
“One of the reasons why I stayed in the job that I stayed in for as long as I did, which is unusual in this day and age, is because of the people I worked with and the people I worked for,” Vilsack said Wednesday.
Vilsack made two speeches in Des Moines yesterday. He addressed delegates at the Iowa Farm Bureau’s annual convention. Vilsack referred to the 1986 shooting at a city council meeting that killed the mayor and wounded two others.
“A tragedy actually almost 30 years to the day in my small hometown of Mount Pleasant created an opportunity for me to get in public service,” Vilsack said. “You all have given me just an incredible opportunity. You’ve allowed me to realize every dream I ever had as a kid. You didn’t have to do that. You didn’t have to give a guy from Pennsylvania the opportunity to be a mayor…to be a state senator. You certainly didn’t have to give me the opportunity to be the governor of this great state for eight years and because of that I had the opportunity to serve you as the secretary of agriculture for eight years.”
Vilsack also was honored Wednesday by the Des Moines-based World Food Prize. The Norman Borlaug Medallion is awarded to individuals and institutions which cannot win the World Food Prize. Both Vilsack and the USDA were presented with medallions. Borlaug is the Iowa native who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work in plant genetics. Vilsack saluted Borlaug’s vision of “using science in order to improve the lives of all people.”
“Norm was about feeding people. Norm was about helping people,” Vilsack said. “And he never stopped.”
Vilsack, who will turn 67 on December 13th, isn’t planning to retire after he leaves the U.S.D.A. in January, but Vilsack told reporters yesterday that he has no firm plans yet.
“I want to be involved in one way, shape or form of advocating for agriculture, for rural America and I have, obviously, an affinity for young people so it’s an opportunity potentially for Christie and me to team up with some young folks,” Vilsack said.
The Vilsacks have two married sons — one in Iowa, the other in Colorado. The former governor says “family is important” and he and his wife want to “spend time” in both states with their four grandchildren.