Biography for Doug O'Brien, J.D., LL.M., Deputy Under Secretary, Rural Development U.S. Department of Agriculture
Doug O'Brien was appointed Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development. Prior to his appointment, O'Brien served as Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack and Chief of Staff to Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.
Before joining the United States Department of Agriculture, O'Brien served as the Assistant Director at the Ohio Department of Agriculture. In this capacity, he assisted the Director in administering the day-to-day operations of that department in such areas as plant industries, animal health, and its laboratories. In addition, he was responsible for developing the department's biofuels, bioproducts and renewable energy policy.
O'Brien has also served as Senior Advisor to Iowa Governor Chet Culver, Interim Co-Director for the National Agricultural Law Center in Fayetteville, Ark., and Senior Staff Attorney at the Drake Agricultural Law Center in Des Moines, Iowa.
He is former counsel for the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, where he worked on the 2002 Farm Bill.
He also served as Legislative Assistant for Representative Leonard Boswell, focusing primarily on Rep. Boswell's work on the House Agriculture Committee, and as a Clerk for Justice Jerry Larson of the Iowa Supreme Court. O'Brien graduated from Loras College and earned a Juris Doctorate with honors from the University of Iowa. In addition, he holds a Master's Degree in Agricultural Law from the University of Arkansas.
O'Brien, who was raised on a diversified farm in Iowa, has dedicated his career to agriculture and rural policy.(May 2013)
Biography for Patrice Kunesh
Deputy Under Secretary, Rural Development
U.S. Department of Agriculture
On May 22, 2013, Patrice H. Kunesh began her tenure at USDA as the Deputy Under Secretary of Rural Development. Among Patrice’s responsibilities are overseeing Operations & Management and the Office of Civil Rights and working with the State Directors.
Prior to joining USDA, Patrice, of Standing Rock Lakota descent, served as the Deputy Solicitor for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, where she supervised the work of the Solicitor’s Office on a breadth of matters concerning American Indian tribes and individual Indians, Indian lands, and Indian gaming. Before joining DOI, Patrice was a member of the faculty of the University of South Dakota School of Law where she taught in the areas of Federal Indian Law, Legislation, Property Law, and Children & the Law, and also directed the University’s Institute of American Indian Studies.
Patrice began her legal career at the Native American Rights Fund as a Skadden Public Interest Fellow and then as a Staff Attorney, where she litigated cases involving tribal sovereignty and natural resources and provided legal and policy advice to tribes on a wide variety of Indian law and tribal governance issues. In 1995, she became in-house counsel to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut, where she continued her legal and policy work in the areas of tribal law and governance and economic development.
Patrice received a Master of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law, where she was an editor of the Colorado Law Review.