Big Dog leaves mark at Clinton Global summit in Denver

Former President Bill Clinton and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discuss “Unlocking the Potential of Rural America” at a session of the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting on June 9 in Denver.Photo courtesy Clinton Global initiative via Bloomberg TV

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who has been consulting in Colorado for the past several years, is headed back to Washington, D.C. and a previous job: secretary of agriculture, according to multiple news reports.

Vilsack and his wife, Christie, have been working for Colorado State University since 2017; their son, Doug, is assistant director for parks, wildlife and lands at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Tom Vilsack was secretary of agriculture under President Obama from 2009 to 2017, the longest-serving member of Obama's cabinet. Prior to the White House, Vilsack served two terms as governor of Iowa. He was a frequent visitor to Colorado during his term as ag secretary. 

Since 2017, Tom Vilsack has been a strategic adviser of food & water initiatives at CSU's National Western Center and global chair for the International Board of Counselors on Food & Water Initiatives. Vilsack also is working with the CSU System and Denver Water on an educational partnership at the new National Western Center in Denver. 

Vilsack was on hand in May for the groundbreaking for the first building on the CSU "Spur" campus at the National Western Center. Known as the VIDA, it includes an equine center, a clinic for companion animals in conjunction with the Dumb Friends League, and will help educate CSU’s veterinary students.

“The coronavirus pandemic underscores the importance of understanding connections between food and health,” Vilsack said. “Spur will grow our appreciation for all those involved in our agricultural and food industry and will help develop sustainable systems that can adapt to challenging disruptions.”

Vilsack also has worked with CSU on water issues, jokingly stating in 2018 that as Secretary of Ag he managed to avoid water issues for eight years. He has since led several symposia on the subject for CSU.

His nomination to the Biden cabinet has not been without controversy. Vilsack is president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, an organization backed by the dairy industry, and that has led to criticism that he will favor big ag over reforms in the industry.

Christie Vilsack is a senior advisor to the chancellor for educational access and Presidential Visiting Scholar of Educational Access. She also is involved in helping to develop the National Western Center, focused primarily on K-12 educational efforts. She previously served with the U.S. Agency for International Development as the senior advisor for international education from 2013-2016. She is a former K-12 and college teacher of English and journalism. 

In addition to Doug, the Vilsacks have another son, Jess, who is a top-rated attorney in mergers and acquisitions in Des Moines, Iowa. The Vilsacks have four grandchildren.

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