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Camilla native USDA chief of staff

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

— WASHINGTON -- Krysta Harden, a Camilla native, was named U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's new chief of staff on Monday, replacing Karen Ross, who took a position as California's food and agriculture secretary.

"It's very exciting, but at the same time it is a daunting responsibility," said Harden. "I've served as a chief of staff before, but nothing as large and with the width and breadth of the Department of Agriculture. It is a huge job involving the day-to-day operation of the USDA and working directly with the secretary."

Harden was the USDA's assistant secretary for congressional relations before assuming her new position.

Before arriving at USDA, Harden served as chief executive officer for the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) from 2004-09.

Operating from NACD headquarters in D.C., she was responsible for the association's policy development and member services programs and coordinated strategic planning, budget formulation and related business operations.

Before that, she was a lobbyist for the American Soybean Association and was chief of staff to former Rep. Charles Hatcher, D-Elmodel. Harden and Hatcher later married.

Harden, 52, is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia and is the highest ranked Georgian in a presidential administration since the Jimmy Carter presidency.

"My family is from Mitchell County. I come from generations of farmers," said Harden. "My roots are firmly in Southwest Georgia and I hope I can have some input that will help the folks back home."

When announcing her appointment as assistant secretary in April 2009, Vilsack said, "Krysta Harden brings a wealth of experience to the position. Her extensive knowledge will serve USDA well as we work with Congress to address the important issues of agriculture and our farmers."

While Harden acknowledges her new job is immense, she said her mission is simple.

"Our job is to implement policies and program that benefit the stakeholders of America," she said. "We serve rural America."