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APHIS Leadership and Biographies

Kevin SheaKevin Shea, Administrator
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services

 Kevin Shea was appointed Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on June 18, 2013, after serving as Acting Administrator since June 2012. As Administrator, Mr. Shea carries out the agency's broad mission of protecting and promoting American agriculture, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. In addition to his regular duties, Mr. Shea serves on the Secretary's Executive Resources Board and the Secretary's Management Council.

Before becoming Administrator, Mr. Shea served as Associate Administrator since September 2004, ensuring the smooth functioning of the Agency and championing APHIS' unprecedented business process improvement efforts.  Starting in 2000, Mr. Shea served as Deputy Administrator for Policy and Program Development, providing leadership for the overall planning and direction of policies, programs and activities at APHIS, as well as being responsible for the Agency's budget, regulation development and environmental compliance programs. From 1992 to 2000 he served as APHIS' Director of Budget and Accounting. Earlier in his career he worked as a budget analyst, Chief of the Program Analysis Branch, and Chief of the Policy Analysis and Development Staff. He also spent one year practicing law in the litigation department of Frank, Bernstein, Conaway and Goldman in Baltimore, MD. Mr. Shea graduated from DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, MD and the University of Maryland in College Park. He earned a law degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

A native Washingtonian, Mr. Shea now resides in Crofton, MD.

michael gregoireMichael C. Gregoire was appointed Associate Administrator in January 2014. In this position, he works closely with Administrator Kevin Shea, ensuring the smooth day-to-day functioning of APHIS.  Mr. Gregoire leads the Agency’s efforts to identify more alternatives to rulemaking to find solutions for the many critical animal and plant health and animal welfare issues facing U.S. agriculture.  He also focuses on APHIS policy, budget and administrative issues and the Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) and Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program areas. 

Before becoming Associate Administrator, Mr. Gregoire was Deputy Administrator of the BRS program for six years.  In this position, he provided leadership and direction to ensure the safe development and introduction (importation, interstate movement, and field testing) of genetically engineered organisms.

Prior to becoming Deputy Administrator for BRS, Mr. Gregoire served as Deputy Administrator for Policy and Program Development. In this role, he provided leadership and guidance in the overall planning and formulation of USDA policies, programs, and activities. Mr. Gregoire was also responsible for the Agency’s budget, regulation development, and environmental compliance programs.

After receiving his undergraduate degree, Mr. Gregoire worked for 2 years as a Social Welfare Examiner with the Erie County Department of Social Services in Buffalo, New York. He began his Federal career as a Budget Analyst with APHIS in 1978 and served in progressively responsible roles as an analyst and manager. From 1978 until 1992, Mr. Gregoire worked in the APHIS Budget and Accounting Division and served as the Agency’s Budget Officer for several years. From 1992 until 1995, Mr. Gregoire was the Chief of Staff to the APHIS Administrator. In 1995, he assumed a leadership position in the Agency’s information technology organization and was named APHIS Chief Information Officer in 1996.

Mr. Gregoire received his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Niagara University in 1976 and a Masters Degree in public administration from George Washington University in 1983.

Mr. Gregoire is a native of Buffalo, New York. He is married and has three children.

Jere DickDr. Jere L. Dick was appointed Associate Administrator in October 2013. In this position, he works closely with Administrator Kevin Shea, ensuring the smooth day-to-day functioning of APHIS.  Dr. Dick leads APHIS’ Business Process Improvement efforts, supports APHIS’ emergency response community, and focuses on the work of Veterinary Services (VS), Wildlife Services (WS), and International Services (IS). 

Before becoming Associate Administrator, Dr. Dick was the Associate Deputy Administrator and Chief of U.S. Field Operations for VS for four years.  In this critical position, Dr. Dick led Agency efforts to protect, sustain, and improve the productivity, marketability, and health of the nation’s animals, animal products, and biologics.  He also played an integral role in protecting the nation from the introduction of dangerous and costly pests and diseases. Dr. Dick cooperated closely with States, foreign governments, industry, and other organizations to ensure that APHIS fulfilled its vital mission of safeguarding American agriculture. 

Dr. Dick began his VS career as a field Veterinary Medical Officer in Helena, Montana, in 1988, after owning and operating two private veterinary practices in the State of Washington for nearly 10 years.  He went on to hold a variety of critical positions in VS, including Associate Deputy Administrator for Veterinary National Animal Health Programs and Policy Staff, Eastern Regional Director, Area Veterinarian in Charge, Area Epidemiologist, field veterinary medical officer, as well as Incident Commander and Regional Incident Commander on two different disease eradication campaigns.

Dr. Dick received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Washington State University and his Bachelor of Science degree from Northwest Nazarene University.

A native of Denair, California, Dr. Dick currently resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his wife Myrna.

Bill ClayWilliam H. (Bill) Clay, Deputy Administrator, Wildlife Services (WS)
Mr. Clay is responsible for overall planning, coordinating, and direction of the national WS operational and research programs. Before assuming the role of Deputy Administrator in August, 2000, Mr. Clay was the WS Associate Deputy Administrator for a period of 3 years, and was the WS director of the operational support staff for a period of 7 years. Prior to that, he served as the State Director for the WS program in North Dakota, and Assistant to the State Director for the Texas WS program.

Mr. Clay is a native of San Antonio, Texas. He obtained his B.S. degree in Wildlife Management from Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, in December 1974 and is a certified wildlife biologist.

John CliffordDr. John R. Clifford, Deputy Administrator, Veterinary Services’ (VS)
Dr. Clifford provides leadership for safeguarding U.S. animal health.  Prior to becoming Deputy Administrator in May 2004, Dr. Clifford served as VS’ acting Deputy Administrator. He was the Associate Deputy Administrator National Animal Health and Policy program where he led VS’ efforts to protect, sustain, and improve productivity, marketability, and health of the nation’s animals, animal products, and biologics.

Dr. Clifford served as VS’ Assistant Deputy Administrator from 1997-2002. He also has extensive field experience. Since joining APHIS in 1985, Dr. Clifford has also served as the area veterinarian in charge in Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, and Indiana; the National Health Monitoring System coordinator in Ohio; and the brucellosis epidemiologist and veterinary medical officer in Kentucky.

Before beginning his work with APHIS, Dr. Clifford was a private veterinarian in a mixed practice. He received his DVM and BS degrees in animal science from the University of Missouri.

A native of Kentucky, Dr. Clifford currently resides in Virginia with his wife, Sara.

chester a. gipsonDr. Chester A. Gipson, Deputy Administrator, Animal Care (AC) Program
Dr. Gipson was appointed Acting Deputy Administrator in November 2001, and then Deputy Administrator, of Animal Care (AC) in May 2002. He and his staff (which includes headquarters personnel in Riverdale, Maryland, regional personnel in Raleigh, North Carolina, and regional personnel in Fort Collins, Colorado) are responsible for the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Horse Protection Act (HPA).

Dr. Gipson has worked for APHIS for more than 20 years. His first job was as a Veterinary Medical Officer (VMO) on the Sheep, Goat, Equine, Ectoparasite, and Miscellaneous Disease staff within Veterinary Services (VS). After that, he served as a VMO with Policy and Program Development, where he and other staff and line officials developed broad policies and veterinary medical programs for VS. After serving a year as Assistant Director of VS’ Southeastern Regional Office, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, he served as Director of that program, until he became the Director of VS’ Animal Health Programs in Riverdale, Maryland, and, later, the Associate Deputy Administrator of VS.

Dr. Gipson received a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama; a Master’s of Agriculture (specializing in Physiology) from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida; and a Bachelor of Science (with a major in Animal Science and Biology) from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida.

Osama El-LissyOsama El-Lissy, Deputy Administrator, Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ)
Mr. El-Lissy leads and directs a nationally dispersed staff that safeguards U.S. animal and plant resources from destructive pests and diseases.

For nearly two years before becoming PPQ’s Deputy Administrator, Osama was the Associate Deputy Administrator responsible for policy and financial management within PPQ. Before that, he directed PPQ’s emergency management, providing national coordination in the preparedness, response, and recovery from plant health emergencies in the United States. This included working with federal and state governments, industry stakeholders, and subject matter experts to develop and implement comprehensive plans designed to safeguard American agriculture against invasive pest outbreaks such as the recent citrus black spot in Florida, European grapevine moth in California, and potato cyst nematode in Idaho.

From 2000 to 2005, Osama served as the APHIS National Coordinator for cotton pest programs. In that role, he provided the coordination for national cotton pest programs in the United States and Mexico, including the boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication programs.

Osama’s previous experience includes more than twelve years in the private sector managing large scale pest control and eradication programs. As the director of the Texas boll weevil eradication program from1994 through 2000, Osama led one of the largest pest eradication programs in the world, affecting approximately four million acres of cotton and providing services to several thousand cotton producers and landowners.

Osama Earned a Master’s Degree in International Business Administration from Georgetown University, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from American University, and a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Production and Entomology from Cairo University.

Beth JonesBethany Jones, Deputy Administrator, Legislative and Public Affairs (LPA)
Ms. Jones provides leadership and guidance to effectively communicate APHIS policy developments and program accomplishments. Ms. Jones is responsible for the overall planning and direction of LPA activities, which include media and industry outreach, legislative analysis, Freedom of Information and Privacy Act requests, production of informational materials, and response to media, congressional, intergovernmental, and citizen inquiries about APHIS programs.

Ms. Jones began her career with APHIS in 1990, after graduating from Randolph Macon Woman’s College with a bachelor of arts degree in English. She accepted a position as a writer/editor with LPA’s Executive Communications program and has been with LPA ever since. Ms. Jones spent 11 years in LPA’s Public Affairs office where she served in various positions including editor of the Agency’s newsletter, outreach campaign coordinator, international trade public affairs specialist and Deputy Director of Public Affairs. In 2000, she was named Director of Public Affairs with responsibility for managing the Agency’s media, outreach, publications, web, and audio visual functions. In 2003, Ms. Jones was selected as Associate Deputy Administrator for LPA and then in 2007 as Deputy Administrator.

Bev SimmonsBeverly Simmons, Deputy Administrator, International Services (IS)
In leading a 300-person staff domestically and overseas, Ms. Simmons directs cooperative efforts with foreign governments to prevent the introduction of high-risk pests and diseases into the United States. She is also responsible for protecting and expanding overseas markets for U.S. agricultural goods, supporting rural incomes and jobs. Simmons broadens APHIS’ safeguarding system by leading work in developing regions to improve their capacity to detect -- and respond -- to emerging pests and disease threats.

Previously in APHIS, Simmons served as the Associate Deputy Administrator for Emerging and International Programs of Biotechnology Regulatory Services. In that role, she was responsible for developing new programs and initiatives to meet the evolving nature of APHIS’ biotechnology regulatory framework, and for advancing its international objectives.

Before joining APHIS, she was the Assistant Deputy Administrator of the Office of Scientific and Technical Affairs of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. In that role, Simmons led the Agency’s efforts to develop strategic and tactical approaches to address technical, sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to agricultural trade. As director of the biotechnology group, she coordinated program and policy development for agricultural biotechnology trade-related issues. Other positions within FAS include Assistant Deputy Administrator for International Trade Policy and Assistant to the Deputy Administrator for Commodity and Marketing Programs. Simmons has also served as Agricultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in London. Simmons earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in business/marketing and agricultural and resource economics from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Chris ZakarkaChristine Zakarka, Deputy Administrator, Policy and Program Development (PPD)
Ms. Zakarka provides leadership for the overall planning and directions of policies, programs and activities at APHIS.  She is also responsible for the Agency’s budget, regulation development and environmental compliance programs.

Prior to her recent appointment, Ms. Zakarka served since 2001 as Chief of PPD’s Planning, Evaluation, and Monitoring staff.  In that role, she was responsible for developing the Agency’s strategic and operational plans, evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of APHIS programs, and analyzing and improving business processes.  Ms. Zakarka has also held numerous other positions in APHIS, including as a Manager of Information Technology Planning and as an Employee Development Specialist. She has served on several temporary managerial details, including Acting Director for the Agency’s Conflict Prevention and Management Program, Acting Director of the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, and most recently, Acting Assistant Human Resources Director. 

Ms. Zakarka obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning from Fordham University and her Masters degree from University of Maryland University College.

HollandMarilyn L. Holland, Deputy Administrator, Marketing and Regulatory Programs Business Services (MRPBS)
Ms. Holland is responsible for providing human resource management, financial management and administrative services to support the objectives of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Agricultural Marketing Service and the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.  Ms. Holland also provides a variety of support services to APHIS, including information technology management, emergency management and investigative services.  

Ms. Holland led APHIS' Modernization Project Management Office from 2011-2012.  Prior to that assignment, she was APHIS' Chief Information Officer from 2008 through 2011.  Ms. Holland came to APHIS in 2006 as the Deputy Chief Information Officer.   She has also worked in the area of IT Management at USDA's Office of the Chief Information Officer and Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation SErvice (now Farm Service Agency).  She began her career at USDA as a financial analyst in the Farmers Home Administration (now Rural Development).

Ms. Holland holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Masters in Business Administration from Georgetown University.

JohnsonKenneth E. Johnson (Ken), Director, Office of Civil Rights, Diversity and Inclusion (OCRDI)
Mr. Johnson is responsible for providing leadership, direction, coordination, evaluation and support to the APHIS: Formal and Informal Complaint Programs; Cultural Transformation and Diversity and Inclusion Programs; Tribal Consultation and Outreach Programs; Civil Rights Compliance Program; and Minority Outreach and Special Emphasis Programs.

During his 37-year Federal Career, Ken spent 10 years with the Agricultural Marketing Service, 2-years with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, and 25 years with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. He has held positions such as Special Programs Consultant to the Administrator; Acting Director, USDA Center for Minority Farmers; Director Emergency Planning and Response Division; Director of the Riverdale/Washington Business Site; Director Resource Management, Wildlife Services; Branch Chief, Procurement Policy and Safety Management; Budget Analyst; Administrative Officer; and Agricultural Marketing Specialist.

In addition to his Federal service, Ken served 9 years as an elected member of the Prince George's County Maryland Board of Education. During his tenure on the Board, Ken's colleagues elected him Chairman of the Board three times.

Dr. FirkoMichael J. Firko, Ph.D., Deputy Administrator, Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS)  
Dr. Firko provides leadership and direction to ensure the safe development and introduction (importation, interstate movement, and field testing) of genetically engineered organisms.

Dr. Firko’s USDA career spans more than 26 years, most of which he spent at APHIS, along with several years at the Agricultural Research Service. In fact, Dr. Firko first joined APHIS to work for Biotechnology, Biologics and Environmental Protection—the predecessor to BRS. The majority of Dr. Firko’s APHIS career, however, has been with our Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program where he served in a number of leadership positions.

As APHIS’ Executive Sponsor for ePermits, Dr. Firko led the Agency’s transition to an on-line, electronic permitting system. He also led the creation of PPQ’s Remote Pest ID system, which uses digital images to help identify intercepted pests and expedite cargo clearance. In addition, Mike led PPQ’s Plant Pest Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, the National Plant Pest Identification Services, and the Plant Germplasm Quarantine program. Following the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Dr. Firko helped create and subsequently led the Federal Select Agent Program until his move to BRS in 2011.

Dr. Firko joined BRS as the Acting Associate Deputy Administrator in July 2011, and was officially named to that position in March 2012. A little more than a year later, in May 2013, he was asked to serve as BRS’ Acting Deputy Administrator. In addition to his BRS responsibilities, Dr. Firko currently serves on USDA’s Science Council as the Marketing and Regulatory Program’s mission area representative, In that role he facilitates and supports cross-Department coordination and collaboration of science-related activities.

Dr. Firko received his Doctorate degree in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986.

Dr. Firko was born in New Jersey, and has lived and worked in Colorado, Alabama, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, and Maryland.