Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack says he wants to come back to Iowa and he isn’t ruling out another run for political office. Vilsack has served in President Obama’s cabinet since January of 2009, as the nation’s ag secretary.
“I have been really blessed and privileged by this state and the one thing I definitely want to do, regardless of the future, is I want to come back here and I want to contribute in some way,” Vilsack says. “I don’t want to go some place else. I want to come back home because this is where the people of Iowa gave me all these extraordinary opportunities and I will be forever indebted to them.”
Vilsack, who grew up in Pennsylvania, met Christie Bell of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in college and adopted her hometown as his own after the couple married. Vilsack was elected mayor of Mount Pleasant and won a seat in the state senate before being elected governor in 1998. Vilsack won reelection in 2002, but did not seek a third term, saying eight years was enough. He’s not ruling out the idea of putting his name on an Iowa ballot again, though.
“You know, you never want to say never,” Vilsack said. After disappointing losses in 2014, the Iowa Democratic Party is in the midst of a rebuilding process and Vilsack seems personally committed to the effort. “It’s going to require a lot of work and it’s going to require all hands on deck,” Vilsack says. “And it’s going to require making sure that we are competitive and getting the message out and working in all 99 counties.”
Vilsack says it’s partly about fashioning a message to explain the role government plays in the economy. “I don’t think Iowans understand that $24.8 billion has been invested in their state from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Vilsack says. “I don’t think that they have a sense of the reason why we’ve got a 4.4 percent unemployment rate is in part because of the investments we have made and maybe if we understood that a little better, there’d be a different attitude, generally, about government. I don’t think they understand that we are currently working with an operating budget at the U.S.D.A that’s less than it was when I became secretary. Well, shoot. That’s an indication that we get it. That we have to be more efficient and more effective.”
Vilsack says he is not interested in continuing to serve as the nation’s ag secretary if Hillary Clinton wins the White House in 2016. Teaching at a university would be of interest to Vilsack after his time is done at the U.S.D.A., but Vilsack says he is not interested in becoming the next president of the University of Iowa.
Vilsack made his comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that will air this coming Friday night on Iowa Public Television.