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USDA announces four political appointments

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced the following political appointments at USDA:

Elvis Cordova has been appointed as chief of staff in the Research, Education and Economics mission area.

Cordova has been a program specialist at the Farm Credit Administration where he worked on special initiatives related to rural development and young, beginning, and small farmer lending programs. He previously served the Farm Credit Administration as a public and congressional affairs specialist, as an as economist and presidential management fellow in the Office of Regulatory Policy, and as a detailee to the Energy Department's Office of Policy and International Affairs.

Before joining FCA, Cordova was a consultant for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and an operations and management planning analyst for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

He is a member of many Hispanic and professional affiliations, and serves as a board member of the Washington D.C. Chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs. Cordova earned a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University and a master’s degree in public administration degree from New York University.

Lillian Salerno has been appointed special assistant to the administrator in the Rural Housing Service.

Salerno, a native of rural Texas, has managed a program in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In a memo, USDA also noted that Salerno is “a recognized expert on the women’s vote and has established national networks of women especially in the business and donor community.”

Salerno holds a bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of Texas at Austin, a master of arts in sociology from the University of North Texas, and a law degree from Southern Methodist University.

Ashli Palmer has been appointed a confidential assistant to the administrator in Rural Housing Service.

Palmer worked for more than nine years in the office of former Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C. As a senior legislative assistant, Palmer managed the office’s earmark process and processed appropriations requests for diverse issues such as healthcare, civil rights, and the environment, USDA noted.

Palmer most recently worked for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a public policy think tank where her work included creating a legislative resource guide on budget and farm bill issues.

Franz Hochstrasser has been appointed a confidential assistant in Research, Education and Economics.

Hochstrasser joined USDA in September 2009 and has served as a legislative analyst in the Office of Congressional Relations specializing in the Research, Education, Economics mission area, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Forest Service as well as in conservation and energy issues.

Before joining USDA, Hochstrasser did contract work with the Democratic National Committtee while volunteering in the White House Office of Correspondence for First Lady Michelle Obama and interning with the office of Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va. Hochstrasser also worked on the Obama campaign in 2008.

Before that, he worked as a paralegal in a real estate and trust law firm and as a business development associate in an environmental planning consulting firm in northern California. Hochstrasser received bachelor’s degrees in linguistics and politics from the University of California at Santa Cruz.