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Why I Serve: Innovation and inspiration come from government employees

Why I serve

May. 5, 2014 - 04:54PM   |  
By TOM VILSACK Secretary of Agriculture   |   Comments
Tom Vilsack: Public service leads to inspiring, innovative work.
Tom Vilsack: Public service leads to inspiring, innovative work. ()

I have had the honor of serving as Secretary of Agriculture since 2009. I have a long career in public service, but I think the most fitting way to explain why I serve is to showcase the work of those around me.

Inspiring and innovative work is happening across the country today - from our smallest towns to our biggest cities – and the nearly one hundred thousand public servants here at USDA are a critical part of that. They bring needed infrastructure to help rural communities grow, provide a safe, affordable food supply, ensure that our land and water resources are preserved for future generations, and much more.

This is not easy work. Like so many across government, USDA employees are continually being asked to do more with less—a charge they have approached time and time again with tenacity and innovative thinking. They continue to deliver superior results, often in places that are hard to reach, off the beaten track, or otherwise underserved.

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There are employees like those in rural South Dakota, who helped the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe obtain a USDA loan to build a new Tribal Administration building when they otherwise could not obtain a line of credit. The building now serves as a central hub to help Tribal members with their social, educational, and housing needs.

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There are also those like Toni Addison, a seven-year employee of the Forest Service in Florida, who have overcome their own challenges and still bring positivity and a giving spirit to their work. Growing up, Toni and her twin sister had a great deal of responsibility for caring for themselves and younger siblings. Toni went on to receive a full scholarship to attend college, came to USDA as an intern, and has been with us ever since. Toni truly has a strong heart to serve, saying it’s a pleasure to get up in the morning and go to work and that she enjoys public service because “we’re such a close-knit family, but at the same time, our personalities and people are so diverse.”

The stories of Toni and the field folks out in South Dakota are just a small sampling of the positive impact of public service across the country. As we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week, I am honored to stand alongside the dedicated employees of USDA. Thank you for all that you do.

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