Elsie Meeks sworn in as director of USDA Rural Development

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., announced Aug. 3 that Elsie Meeks, a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, has been sworn in as the United States Department of Agriculture director of Rural Development in Rapid City.

In this role, Meeks, who Johnson recommended for the post in February, will play a crucial role in ensuring those in rural states like South Dakota can fully participate in the global economy.

“The director of Rural Development plays an important role in our state and across rural America, and I know Elsie will do an outstanding job,” Johnson said. “Her first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing communities like ours will make her an invaluable asset to South Dakota and to the Obama administration. I congratulate her on this milestone and look forward to working with her at USDA in the months ahead.”

“I am excited about working for the USDA Rural Development Agency and for the Obama administration. The one thing that really excites me is that one of the president and Secretary Vilsack’s goals is wealth creation in rural communities,” Meeks said. “I am honored and grateful that Sen. Johnson believed that I could bring something to this agency.”

Following Johnson’s recommendation, President Obama appointed Meeks to lead Rural Development earlier this month. USDA Rural Development works closely with profit and nonprofit sectors, with state, tribal and local governments on public/private partnerships. The South Dakota State Office is located in Huron with area offices around the state.

Meeks has more than 20 years experience working for Native community economic development. She has served as president/CEO of First Nations Oweesta Corporation, and was active for 20 years in the development and management of The Lakota Funds, a small business and microenterprise development loan fund CDFI on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

She has also served as chairperson of The Lakota Funds and board member of Corporation for Enterprise Development, Northwest Area Foundation, Council on Foundations and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Partnership for Housing. She has also completed a six-year term on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and was the first Native American to serve on the Commission.

Elsie and her husband, Jim, have a ranch near Kyle, S.D. on the Pine Ridge Reservation.