WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has appointed Alaskans to head state offices of rural development and farm services for the Department of Agriculture, or USDA, one of whom helped lead the Trump campaign in Alaska.
Jerry Ward, co-chair of the Trump campaign in Alaska, is now state director for rural development at the USDA. Bryan Scoresby will head the Farm Service Agency in Alaska. Both work from offices based in Palmer.
Though the USDA just announced the appointments, Ward has been on the job for a month, he said. Scoresby started one week ago, he said. Both, like the president, are shifting from real estate to government work. But both Ward and Scoresby have past experience in politics and government work.
Ward, an Alaska Native, was a state senator from Southcentral from 1997 to 2002. He was one of two paid campaign staffers for Trump in Alaska. He also worked on the presidential transition as a Native liaison and on a "landing team" at the Education Department at the start of the administration.
Ward replaces James Robert Nordlund, an Obama administration appointee who resigned in January. The Rural Development office offers federal resources through grants and loans to rural projects. It handed out $2.16 billion in Alaska over the last eight years, according to the USDA.
Ward said he hopes to use the agency to help provide jobs and housing in rural Alaska. "I'm quite anxious to be able to help Alaska grow properly," he said. Ward noted that he is the first Alaska Native to hold the position, and he hopes to bring that perspective to the agency and offer aid to the many rural tribes in the state.
The Farm Service Agency director, Scoresby, will focus on policies to plan and implement the state program serving farmers, ranchers, foresters and other sorts of agricultural producers. He said the USDA has a variety of programs that assist beginning farmers and people who want to participate in agriculture.
Scoresby, who grew up on a dairy farm in Idaho, has a master's degree in agro-business management from Brigham Young University, he said. He began working for the Farm Service Agency in 1987 and came to Alaska in 1992, he said. For the last 21 years, Scoresby has worked in the mortgage business, he said.
Scoresby said he applied for the position out of a long-held hope of coming back to the agency toward the "latter end" of his working career.
During his time in the mortgage industry, Scoresby said he has kept up involvement in Alaska's agricultural community, helping his and other children raise pigs for 4-H Club competitions and personally raising several calves every years.
Both positions are considered "Schedule C" appointments, which do not require Senate confirmation, but are policymaking jobs selected by each presidential administration.