Tom Vilsack, a.k.a. Thomas James Vilsack has been nominated to become Barack Obama's first Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack was a popular two term Governor of Iowa from 1999-2006 and is often described as ideologically moderate. He was a candidate for the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination, but he withdrew in Feb. 2007.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 13, 1950, Vilsack was an orphan adopted by Bud and Dolly Vilsack in 1951. He was raised as a Roman Catholic. He received a bachelor's degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York in 1972, and received a law degree from Albany Law School in 1975. Vilsack was elected mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa in 1987, and was elected to the Iowa Senate in 1992. In 1998 he was elected Iowa's first Democratic governor in more than 30 years, and was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2002. He chose not to run for a third term in 2006.
A top priority of the Governor’s administration has been to improve education opportunities. Governor Vilsack led the effort to provide funding for reduced class sizes in the early grades of elementary school, and as a result, Iowa’s fourth-graders placed among the best in the nation in math and science progress, and reversed an eight-year decline in reading test scores, with increases in each of the last three years. He has worked to make Iowa a national leader in children’s health care coverage, with 94% of all Iowa children having health insurance.
Under Governor Vilsack’s leadership, Iowa has pursued a comprehensive economic growth strategy focused on renewable energy, life sciences, financial services, advanced manufacturing, and improving cultural and recreational opportunities. Consistent with the Governor’s vision of making Iowa energy independent, the state in the last five years has nearly tripled Iowa’s ethanol production and will next year become the nation’s leading producer of ethanol. The Governor has led the state to develop new businesses in Iowa with the help of an aggressive venture capital program that combines public and private sector investment. During his time in office, Iowa has significantly expanded cultural and recreational opportunities with $1.6 billion of investment in 119 Iowa communities. Under his leadership, a $503 million Iowa Values Fund is making direct investments in Iowa companies and has helped create or retain thousands of good-paying jobs since it was established in June 2003.
Governor Vilsack is a former Chair of the Democratic Governors’ Association and a member of the National Governors’ Association Executive Committee. He is a former Chair of the national Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program, a founding member and former Chair of the Governors Biotechnology Partnership, the former Chair of the Ethanol Coalition, and the Chair of the Midwest Governor’s Conference. He is the former Chairman of the DLC. He and his wife Christie have two sons.
Gubernatorial Executive Orders
Gov. Vilsack has issued several orders with wide impact on the state:
- On July 4, 2005, he issued an order that automatically restored voting rights to felons once they had completed their sentence, see Iowa: Running for Office for details.
- On January 16, 2006, he issued an order that allowed the state's child care providers to organize a union. It was modelled on a similar order in Illinois, which resulted in a 35% pay raise for child care workers.
2008 Presidential Campaign
- In his final State of the State speech, Vilsack called for the Iowa legislature to pass a resolution condemning an escalation in Iraq.
- Vilsack has publically called for us to immediately withdraw from Iraq. They voted for it, they voted to fund it, they can vote to stop the war.
Secretary of Agriculture
- Tom Vilsack 08 - presidential campaign site