WASHINGTON – Today, President Joe Biden appointed the following individuals to serve in key regional leadership roles at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
- Julia Wickard, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Indiana
- Jeffrey Holmes, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, New Hampshire
- Steve Dick, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, South Dakota
- Deidre Deculus Robert, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Louisiana
- Lucas Ingvolstad, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Nevada
- Erin Oban, USDA State Director, Rural Development, North Dakota
- Nikki Gronli, USDA State Director, Rural Development, South Dakota
- Perry Hickman, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Virginia
- Ryan Thorn, USDA State Director, Rural Development, West Virginia
- Thomas Sivak, FEMA Regional Administrator, Region 5
- Juana Matias, HUD Regional Administrator, Region 1
- Candace Valenzuela, HUD Regional Administrator, Region 6
These regional appointees will be critical to the President’s efforts to rebuild communities most impacted by the pandemic, the economic recovery, and climate change. They bring deep expertise in their issue areas as well as critical relationships with federal, state, tribal, and local leaders. And, consistent with the President’s commitment to building an administration that looks like America, these regional appointees represent the diversity of America and the communities they serve.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA)
The USDA’s Farm Service Agency implements agricultural policy, administers credit and loan programs, and manages conservation, commodity, disaster, and farm marketing programs in each U.S. State. Its mission is to equitably serve all farmers, ranchers, and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective, efficient agricultural programs for all Americans. State Executive Directors oversee this work, ensuring the needs of local constituents are met and that USDA resources are distributed equitably and fairly.
USDA’s Rural Development mission area is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America. State Directors lead offices that offer grants, loans, and loan guarantees to help create jobs and support economic development and essential services.
Julia Wickard, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Indiana
Hailing from her family’s Hoosier homesteaded livestock and row-crop farm, Julia A. Wickard, her husband, and two children own and operate Wickard Livestock where they raise registered Angus cattle and Boer goats. Wickard embarked on a journey with the State of Indiana at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) in April of 2017 as the Government Affairs Director and Agricultural Liaison. Just a few short months following her arrival at IDEM, she was appointed as Assistant Commissioner in the Office of Program Support, while also maintaining her Agricultural Liaison role. Prior to IDEM, she served for eight years as the Indiana State Executive Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) where she led over 300 employees in 75 county offices in administering federal agricultural programs. She served as the Executive Vice President of the Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Chief Operating and Marketing Officer and Environmental and Natural Resources Director at the Indiana Farm Bureau Inc., and was the Environmental and Natural Resources Director in the Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture. She has worked for the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Inc. and served two members of Congress.
Wickard is a graduate of AgrIInstitute’s Indiana Agricultural Leadership Program and currently chairs the board of directors. She is a recipient of Indiana’s highest honor from the Governor of the State, the Sagamore of the Wabash, and in 2019 was recognized as a Purdue University Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication Distinguished Alumni. Wickard is active in her community and enjoys spending time with family and exhibiting cattle and goats in the state and across the country.
Jeffrey Holmes, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, New Hampshire
Jeffrey Holmes is a fifth-generation farmer from Langdon, New Hampshire on property owned by the family since 1873. The farm was home to registered jersey cattle for over 80 years. Commodities currently produced on the farm include hay, corn, maple, timber, and firewood. Holmes’ public service includes 22 years on the New Hampshire Farm Bureau (NHFB) Board of Directors with eight years as NHFB President, 15 years as the Langdon town moderator, FSA county committee member, and County Executive Director in the Cheshire-Sullivan County office. Holmes and his wife Lisa are the proud parents of two adult children, and are enjoying the arrival of a grandson born in 2021.
Steve Dick, USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, South Dakota
Steve Dick has served as the Executive Director of Ag United for South Dakota since January 2005. Within this capacity he worked with the South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Cattlemen, South Dakota Pork Producers, South Dakota Soybeans, South Dakota Corn Growers, South Dakota Dairy Producers, and the South Dakota Poultry Industries Association to organize events and activities connecting consumers with South Dakota farm and ranch families. Before joining Ag United, Dick served on Senator Tom Daschle’s (D-SD) staff for a total of ten years in South Dakota and Washington, DC. In his last position with Senator Daschle, he served as the Agriculture Outreach Coordinator.
A native of southeastern South Dakota, Dick operates his family’s farm near Canistota in McCook County where he grows corn and soybeans and feeds cattle. He has served on the boards for East Dakota Water Development District, South Dakota Ag Foundation, East Dakota Education Foundation, Sioux Valley Energy Operation Round-Up, and the West Central School District. He is a graduate of the University of South Dakota. Dick and his wife, Jeanne, reside in Hartford and are the parents to two children, Truman, a student at the University of South Dakota, and Eleanor, a student at West Central High School.
Deidre Deculus Robert, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Louisiana
Deidre Deculus Robert was born and raised in rural Mamou, Louisiana. She has been immersed in agriculture and rural development her entire life; her mother retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and father served on the Farm Services Agency State Committee. Robert has over two decades of legal, administrative, and executive management experience. Her legal career began in the Parish Attorney’s Office of the City of Baton Rouge-Parish of East Baton Rouge as an assistant city prosecutor. During her 11 years with the City-Parish, she advanced to become the first female African American section chief. She worked for over six years as an assistant attorney general with the Louisiana Department of Justice, where she served as deputy director of the Public Protection Division, deputy director of the Litigation Division, and special litigation counsel assigned to defend the Louisiana Judiciary.
Recently, Robert served as the executive counsel for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. Her responsibilities included managing legislative affairs on the federal, state, and local levels and supervising the innovative procurement/alternative delivery, and human resources of the agency. She collaborated with state and local partners advance infrastructure needs including rail, broadband, and bridges throughout the state. Previously, Robert served as general counsel of the Southern University and A&M College System, the only HBCU college system in the country. Robert has focused her passion for service with the Louisiana State Bar Association Diversity Committee and House of Delegates; the Louisiana Bar Foundation as a fellow and board member; the Louis A. Martinet Legal Society; Junior League of Baton Rouge; Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, and more. She and her husband James reside on their ranch in Glynn, Louisiana with their two sons.
Lucas Ingvolstad, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Nevada
A native Nevadan born and raised in Reno, Lucas Ingvolstad attended the University of Nevada, Reno where he earned his Master of Science degree in Land Use Planning Policy in 2011 and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2005. In 2016, Ingvolstad was acknowledged as the Young Alumni of Year by the College of Science and Mackay School of Earth Sciences.
Ingvolstad’s professional experience includes public policy, public affairs, legislative relations, stakeholder engagement, and business development. Ingvolstad previously served as the Senior Director of Government and External Affairs for Eolus North America, a utility-scale renewable energy developer focusing on solar, wind, and battery storage projects throughout the Mountain West. Ingvolstad directed legislative and regulatory strategies and closely engaged with elected officials and administrators to promote renewable energy development, to combat climate change and promote economic development.
Before joining Eolus, Ingvolstad served as a senior advisor to U.S. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), where he focused on energy, agriculture, and natural resource issues. Ingvolstad was responsible for regularly communicating with Nevadans and stakeholders on issues relating to energy, public lands, water, natural resources, and economic development, and worked directly with Native American tribes. Ingvolstad developed strategic outreach initiatives by collaborating with local governments, industry, nonprofit organizations, and advocacy groups, and played a key role in organizing the Lake Tahoe Summits and the National Clean Energy Summits. In Ingvolstad’s spare time, he loves spending time with family, is an avid cyclist, and enjoys being outdoors, backyard gardening, and cooking.
Erin Oban, USDA State Director, Rural Development, North Dakota
Erin Oban grew up in a farm family in Ray, North Dakota, a small, rural community in the heart of Bakken oil country. Oban moved to Bismarck to further her education and received a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics Education at the University of Mary. Oban’s professional career began as a middle school math and technology teacher before gaining experience in nonprofit management, politics, and public service. She is currently employed as the Director of Community Engagement with the Central Regional Education Association where she supports efficiencies and effectiveness in education through partnerships between school districts and local, regional, and statewide organizations and agencies to provide programs and services for the students, families, and educators in their communities.
Oban was elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018 to represent central Bismarck’s District 35 in the North Dakota State Senate. Oban has become an effective and respected leader, rising most recently to the position of Assistant Senate Minority Leader. Throughout her two terms in the legislature, she has served on the Senate’s Education, Energy and Natural Resources, Agriculture, Government and Veterans Affairs, and Political Subdivisions Committees. Oban has been thrice elected by her peers to serve on the powerful Legislative Management Committee and was twice appointed with bipartisan support as chairwoman of the legislature’s Interim Education Policy Committees. Her leadership in the Senate on issues of importance has been recognized by many local and statewide associations. Oban makes her home in Bismarck with her husband, Chad, and their 5-year-old son, Evin.
Nikki Gronli, USDA State Director, Rural Development, South Dakota
Nikki Gronli grew up in Aurora, South Dakota. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota, and began her career in advertising and marketing in Minneapolis. She returned to South Dakota in 2001 and continued to work on some of the best-known brands in the region, including South Dakota Tourism. Gronli will be leaving her role as Marketing Specialist at SDN Communications where she oversaw the brand, traditional marketing, and educational events. This professional experience helped her achieve board positions with Dakota State University’s Cybersecurity Industry Advisory Board and formerly, President of the Department of Defense STARBASE program. In her current role, Gronli has been an advocate for broadband expansion in South Dakota. Gronli understands extending critical broadband infrastructure to under-served communities and tribal areas is key to diversifying South Dakota’s economy.
Gronli is active in her community through numerous board and committee positions such as Minnehaha County Housing Redevelopment Committee, Siouxland Heritage Museum Board, and LEAD South Dakota, and recently served as vice chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party and chair of the Minnehaha County Democratic Party. Gronli and her husband Brian live in the rural Dell Rapids area, where they raised their four now-grown children. They are proud grandparents of two. In their downtime, they enjoy travel, hiking, and fishing – even in the winter.
Perry Hickman, USDA State Director, Rural Development, Virginia
Perry M. Hickman grew up in Tappahannock, Virginia and still resides in this small rural community. Hickman is a 1985 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and Management with a concentration in Real Estate and Urban Land Development.
Hickman has more than 20 years of combined sales experience in mortgage lending and telecommunications services. Hickman started his federal career with USDA Rural Development in April 2008, and he has primarily worked in the Rural Development Community Programs division to assist rural municipalities, non-profit corporations, and Tribal entities that seek federal financial assistance to enhance their ability to provide essential services for the orderly development of a rural community. Hickman has been a Rural Development National Office Senior Loan Specialist where he planned Public, Private, Partnership (P3) events with commercial lenders and other private sector partners. Annually, these P3 events accounted for obligating more than $200 million of congressionally appropriated funds through the Rural Development Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. As the Virginia Community Programs Director, Mr. Hickman managed a $750 million portfolio.
Ryan Thorn, USDA State Director, Rural Development, West Virginia
Born, raised, and educated in West Virginia, Ryan Thorn grew up the son of a coal miner and learned early in life the importance of hard work, serving others, and dedication to creating opportunities for rural communities. Thorn has 15 years of professional experience in the private and public sectors, working in the fields of public and government affairs and economic development. He previously served more than five years as Economic Development Manager for the Office of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin III (D-WV). In this role, he worked with local, state, and federal stakeholders to attract new and expand existing businesses, strengthen public infrastructure, develop a skilled and ready workforce, and create economically diverse and resilient communities across the state. Thorn is the first in his immediate family to graduate from college and is an advocate for lifelong learning. He holds a master’s degree from West Virginia University, a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College, and is a board member of the Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College Foundation.
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (FEMA)
Regional Administrators lead FEMA’s 10 Regional offices and coordinate directly with the FEMA Administrator to support state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) communities in their geographic area of operations delivering frontline services across the spectrum of preparedness, mitigation, response, recovery, and continuity programs. The Regional Administrators play a critical role in delivering timely, efficient, effective, and accessible federal assistance.
Thomas Sivak, FEMA Regional Administrator, Region 5
Thomas Sivak serves as the Deputy Director of Operations for Cook County, Illinois Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security. Sivak’s key areas of emphasis are preparedness, planning, logistical response capabilities, information sharing and operational coordination across 135 municipalities. Throughout Sivak’s 15-year emergency management and public safety career, he has proudly served both private and public sector organizations. He is skilled in and recognized as a subject matter expert in safety, security, emergency management, disaster relief, pandemic response, and coordination.
Throughout his career, Sivak has served in leadership roles during major Emergency Operations Center and incident management activations as a result of major incidents and events. These include the 2012 Super Bowl, 2018 Mercy Hospital Active Shooter Incident, COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest in May and August 2020, and Presidential Election Consequence Management. Sivak is a Certified Emergency Manager through the International Association of Emergency Managers and a graduate of the Executive Leadership Program at the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security. He holds a Master of Science in Public Service Leadership from DePaul University, a Bachelors of Arts degree from Marquette University, and is originally from East Cleveland, Ohio.
Region 5 serves Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT (HUD)
Regional Administrators lead HUD’s 10 Regional Offices that directly serve state and local organizations. Regional Administrators oversee field offices across each state in their region and ensure the Department directly serves local communities. Regional Administrators play a key role in leading assignments of housing assistance funds within the region and coordinating those assignments with HUD headquarters.
Juana Matias, HUD Regional Administrator, Region 1
Juana Matias is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association and served as the Chief Operating Officer for MassINC, a nonprofit, non-partisan public policy think and action tank and civic news organization. In this capacity, she oversaw the organization’s internal operations, policy and advocacy strategy, development, and communications, and served as the main spokesperson with elected officials, policy makers, and the media. She also led efforts to strategically advance MassINC’s research in policy areas which included the K-16 education continuum, housing choice, criminal justice reform, transit-oriented development, and racial and economic justice.
Previously, Matias served as the State Representative for the 16th Essex District, becoming the first Latina immigrant elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. During her time at the State House, she secured an 81% increase in local funding for her district, and sponsored key legislation that protected immigrant rights, stimulated the production of new affordable housing, promoted access to minority-owned and women-owned businesses, addressed inequities in our public-school systems, and expanded opportunities for working class Americans.
Region 1 serves Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Candace Valenzuela, HUD Regional Administrator, Region 6
Candace Valenzuela is a mother, an educator, and a former school board trustee. She credits HUD and public education with giving her the stability she and her family needed to thrive as she experienced food and housing insecurity throughout childhood. After becoming the first in her family to graduate college, Valenzuela has since devoted her life to fighting for opportunities for others. She first ran for her local school board to improve Texas schools, becoming the first Latina and first Black woman to serve on the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board. While on the board, she worked to ensure that faculty and staff would be able to afford to live in the district they served, and that students would have a strong education to help them overcome life’s challenges. Valenzuela was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Texas’ 24th District in 2020. She previously worked as a development manager for Metrocrest Services, a half-century-old non-profit that has worked hard to fight hunger, housing insecurity, and unemployment in her community.
Region 6 serves Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.