I recently announced the retirements of three APHIS leaders who filled crucial roles within our Agency—Jere Dick, our Associate Administrator since 2013; Bill Clay, who led Wildlife Services (WS) for 17 years; and Beverly Simmons, our Deputy Administrator for APHIS’ International Services (IS), who was responsible for our operations abroad. Continuity of leadership is extremely important to me—APHIS provides vital services in every State, multiple territories and countless countries around the world and it’s essential we have a team of strong leaders directing the vital work of our Agency.
For this reason, I’ve moved quickly to identify exceptional leaders from within our ranks to help carry out the broad and diverse mission of this Agency that I’m so proud to lead. I have several announcements to share with you, and I hope to soon announce the appointment of our new Associate Administrator, who will work alongside me and Mike Gregoire in the Administrator’s office.
Today, I’m pleased to report that effective immediately, Cheryle Blakely will serve as Deputy Administrator for International Services—a role she has already been acting in. In addition, Janet Bucknall, WS’ Eastern Region Director will take over as the program’s Deputy Administrator—an organization she first joined in 1987. And Willie Harris, the current Eastern Region Director for Investigative and Enforcement Services will replace Janet as WS’ Eastern Region Director.
I want to thank Cheryle, Janet and Willie for their dedication to APHIS and their willingness to take on these new roles. They will assume their new positions effective immediately. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that today’s announcements will cause a trickle-down effect, creating still more leadership vacancies, and we will fill these as expeditiously as possible.
I realize many of our stakeholders may not have had the opportunity to work with these senior leaders before, so I’ve included some biographical information to provide additional background on their careers and professional experience. I hope you’ll have the chance to meet them in the coming months.
Cheryle Blakely, International Services Deputy Administrator
Cheryle Blakely, who currently serves as IS’ Associate Deputy Administrator, is assuming the role of Deputy Administrator for that program. In her current role, she directs the operations and objectives of 28 IS posts worldwide, overseeing a team of more than 200 Foreign Service Officers and Foreign Service Nationals. She also serves as a key liaison between IS, other USDA agencies, international organizations and other non-governmental organizations.
Ms. Blakely first joined APHIS in 2006 as IS’ Chief of Staff. She then served as U.S. General Director of the U.S.–Panama Bi-Lateral Screwworm Commission before returning to Washington, D.C., in 2010 to serve as the Administrative Director for IS.
In 2011, she detailed to the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) in their Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program, where she worked on agricultural business investments as part of the Presidential Grow Africa G8 Task Force for Markets and Partnerships in Tanzania, Africa. Ms. Blakely returned to APHIS in 2012 as the IS Associate Deputy Administrator.
Before joining APHIS, Ms. Blakely had a long and successful career with the military. Following six years of active duty service in the U.S. Air Force, Ms. Blakely embarked on a distinguished civil service career at the Department of Defense while continuing ten years of active reserve military duty. During her civilian career, Ms. Blakely served as Head of Business Operations and Marketing for the Morale, Welfare and Recreation enterprise at Yokota Air Base, Japan; and as Director of Acquisitions for the Air Force Wargaming Center in Montgomery, AL.
Ms. Blakely has a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Education from Eastern Illinois University-Carbondale, IL; and a Master of Science in Public Administration from Russell Sage College, Albany, New York.
Janet Bucknall, Wildlife Services Deputy Administrator
Janet Bucknall has been named the new WS Deputy Administrator. She currently serves as the program’s Eastern Region Director and is a wildlife biologist. Ms. Bucknall joined APHIS in 1987 as part of WS’ Supervisory Training Program. At the time, WS was still known as Animal Damage Control.
Although Ms. Bucknall has spent most of her career with WS, from 2014 to 2016 she served as the Associate Deputy Administrator for BRS, where she handled the international and emerging issues portfolios. Before moving over to BRS, Ms. Bucknall spent 7 years as the Deputy Director for Wildlife Operations with WS’ Operational Support Staff headquartered in Riverdale, MD.
Prior to moving to APHIS’ headquarters, Ms. Bucknall was the State Director of WS’ New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania programs. She served in this role from 1991 to 2007 focusing on migratory bird damage management, predation management to protect rare and endangered shorebirds and airport wildlife hazards management. Her many years as State Director and first-hand experience in the field bring her instant credibility—Ms. Bucknall knows exactly what producers need to protect their livelihoods and how our employees can deliver those services most efficiently and effectively.
Before being named State Director, Ms. Bucknall spent two years with the New York WS program, and her WS career started in Wisconsin where she helped Wisconsin dairy farmers resolve damage caused by Canada geese and removed beavers and beaver dams to protect and rehabilitate trout streams.
Ms. Bucknall has Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree in wildlife management from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the University of Minnesota, respectively.
Willie Harris, Wildlife Services Eastern Regional Director
Willie Harris is replacing Ms. Bucknall as WS’ Eastern Regional Director based in Raleigh, NC. He has a nearly 27-year career with APHIS and currently serves as the Eastern Regional Director for IES.
In this role, Mr. Harris, oversees a team of field investigators who conduct investigations into potential violations of APHIS’ regulations, such as the Animal Welfare Act, the Plant Protection Act and the Animal Health Protection Act. Before being named IES’ Regional Director in 2011, Mr. Harris spent two years as IES’ Deputy Regional Director in Raleigh.
For the bulk of his APHIS career, however, Mr. Harris worked for PPQ. He joined PPQ in 1991 while he was still in college and worked as a technician at Miami International Airport. In 1992, he was selected to become a PPQ Officer at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Over the span of his PPQ career, he held several different positions, including Miami Port Director and State Plant Health Director for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In 2002, he transferred to Raleigh to become PPQ’s Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance (SITC) Director for the Eastern Region, where he was responsible for a team of field specialists whose role is to detect and prevent the unlawful entry and distribution of prohibited products that could harbor exotic animal and plant pests and diseases. He held this position until he joined IES as Deputy Regional Director in 2009.
Mr. Harris has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Florida Memorial University, and a Master of Business Administration Degree with a concentration in Public Administration from Strayer University.
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