Westsider Sallie Clark USDA's Rural Development director for ColoradoDec. 3, 2017
Former County Commissioner Sallie Clark, a Westside resident and business owner, is the new Colorado director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development office.
Although her appointment by the Trump administration took effect less than a month ago (Nov. 13), she's already finding the work “very rewarding,” she said in a late-November interview.
“Even in just two weeks, it makes you feel good to help these struggling rural counties and find a way to reach out to build more relationships
Clark works out of an office in Denver. Her office, which she describes as “nonpartisan,” had a budget of about $750 million in 2016.
Typically partnering with local governments and organizations, Rural Development agencies around the country use loan programs - as well as some grants - to help needy, non-urban areas build homes, fire stations, medical clinics, children's centers, assisted living and nursing homes; to provide rental assistance; to support infrastructure, and to expand businesses, Clark explained. One program even seeks to help military veterans learn to become farmers.
The USDA is overseen by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. A press release lists the USDA's “four guiding principles: to maximize the ability of American agriculture to create jobs, sell foods and fiber, and feed and clothe the world; to prioritize customer service for the taxpayers; to ensure that our food supply is safe and secure; and to maintain good stewardship of the natural resources that provide us with our miraculous bounty.”
In 1986, Clark and her husband Welling started a historically themed bed-and-breakfast at 11th Street and Pikes Peak Avenue, and both have been active over the years in neighborhood and community issues. She served on City Council from 2000 to 2002 and on the Board of County Commissioners from 2005 to January of this year, after not seeking re-election because of term limits.
In conjunction with her commissioner post, Clark also served on the National Association of Counties (NACo), becoming its board president during the fiscal year of 2015-16. She said that in those roles, “I really developed an affinity for helping small communities.”
Although there has been some uptick from what's been called the Great Recession, “the economy has not really recovered in rural areas,” Clark said. “They don't have deep pockets to reach down into.”
As she settles into her new position, Clark said one of her first priorities is communications - getting the word out to rural areas facing tough times around Colorado so they can see how to “utilitize the economic opportunities” that her agency offers.
Westside Pioneer article