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Office of Rural Prosperity director Kelliann Blazek leaving state to join Biden administration
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STATE RURAL PROSPERITY OFFICE

Office of Rural Prosperity director Kelliann Blazek leaving state to join Biden administration

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Kelliann Blazek, who took the helm of the state’s rural prosperity office less than a year ago, has been tabbed to join President Joe Biden’s administration in Washington to assist with rural policy.

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The new role sets up a return to Washington for the Wisconsin native, who spent several years working on rural and agricultural life legislation at the U.S. Capitol before returning to Wisconsin in April to become director the the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s Office of Rural Prosperity, which was created last year to support rural communities.

On Friday, the Biden administration announced Blazek had been appointed special assistant to the president for agriculture and rural policy.

“These qualified, impressive, and dedicated individuals reflect the diversity and strength of America and will play critical roles advancing the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to tackling the crises we face and building back our country better,” according to a White House statement announcing several appointments.

WEDC CEO Melissa Hughes congratulated Blazek on her appointment, noting her experience at both the national and local level, which “will bring great depth to the administration.”

“The Office of Rural Prosperity continues to work with rural communities, partners and businesses to identify and pilot innovative ways to help rural communities thrive,” Hughes said. “We are in the process of selecting a new director and anticipate one will be named shortly.”

Before returning to Wisconsin, Blazek worked as counsel to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and helped include provisions in the 2018 farm bill that supported local food economies, organic agriculture and food-waste reduction.

“I wanted to work on federal policy on Capitol Hill to see how the sausage is made, as they say,” Blazek told the State Journal last summer. She added that she viewed the 2018 farm bill as one of her greatest accomplishments.

She also taught food law and policy at the Antonin Scalia Law School and spent time at the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. She grew up on a small beef farm outside of Bangor in La Crosse County, which her family still runs.

In January, Wisconsin’s top health official, Andrea Palm, also left the state to join Biden’s administration — effectively becoming the president’s No. 2 health official.

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