Vicki L. Walker served as the Oregon State Director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development from November 2009 to January 2017 as a Schedule C Presidential Appointee under President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. She resigned from her position on January 20, 2017, due to a change in the Presidential Administration.
During her service under President Obama, Ms. Walker led Oregon Rural Development in helping more than 21,000 low-income rural residents purchase or repair their homes; building or maintaining more than 200 low-income apartment complexes serving nearly 6,400 rural residents; helping more than 900 rural businesses get off the ground or expand their operations; directing $101.8 million in federal funding to ensure more rural Oregonians have reliable electricity; expanding access to telecommunication services in rural areas through $75.5 million in funding; providing safe drinking water and waste disposal systems to more than 127,700 rural residents; and building or upgrading 60 essential community facilities, such as hospitals, schools, and fire stations. From 2012 to 2017, Ms. Walker oversaw the local implementation of Secretary Vilsack’s national initiative to focus additional resources in rural areas experiencing severe poverty with Rural Development investments in these areas increasing by 18 percent in Oregon under her leadership.
Ms. Walker fostered partnerships with public and private entities to better leverage additional investments and increase coordination in the delivery of financial and technical assistance to rural communities. Most notably, Ms. Walker convened a tristate forum with Oregon, Washington, and Idaho to develop cross-state rural investment strategies and led the revitalization of the Oregon Rural Development Council—a consortium of federal, state, local, and private organizations focused on improving cross-agency and cross-sector coordination of rural development projects.
While serving as State Director, Ms. Walker streamlined operations to ensure the successful delivery of vital resources to rural Oregon communities despite a 23 percent reduction in staffing levels from 2009 to 2016, coupled with an increase in annual program funding of $110 million for the state. Ms. Walker’s expertise was also utilized beyond Oregon. She provided leadership on Secretary Vilsack’s initiative to regionalize administrative functions across the Department, and she served as the Regional Coordinator for the 13 western states for several years during her tenure.
Ms. Walker was successful in bringing additional federal funds into Oregon through pilot projects and cooperative agreements. She helped rural communities tap into the rapidly growing, multi-billion-dollar local foods market through the creation and expansion of local and regional food systems. She assisted with the creation of new jobs and provided new markets for farmers and ranchers through investments in businesses and technology that support the production of biobased products. Ms. Walker also helped protect the environment while assisting nearly 500 rural businesses or agricultural producers save money on their energy bills with $88.9 million in funding for the adoption of renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements.
Overall, during her service from 2009 to 2017, Ms. Walker oversaw the investment of $4.8 billion in more than 24,200 projects in Oregon that are helping to spur rural economic growth and improve the quality of life for rural Americans.
Prior to her appointment to Rural Development, Ms. Walker served for ten years in the Oregon State Legislature in both the House and the Senate. In her later years in the Senate, Ms. Walker served on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, directly overseeing the budget for Oregon’s natural resource industries and public safety agencies. For the previous 25 years, she operated her own court reporting firm. She earned a B.S. degree from the University of Oregon in 1978, and studied court reporting at Lane Community College.
Ms. Walker currently lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband, Steve Walker, to whom she’s been married since 1975. They have two grown children, and two grandchildren.