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July 14, 2009 5:04 PM

Gates Foundation, Cantwell veterans picked for USDA posts

Posted by Kristi Heim

Rajiv Shah is bringing two familiar faces to D.C. -- a former colleague at the Gates Foundation and Sen. Maria Cantwell's chief of staff, both of whom have just joined him at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rachael Goldfarb was named counselor to the under secretary last week by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. She will work under Shah, who heads Research, Education and Economics at the USDA and is also chief scientist.

At the Gates Foundation, Goldfarb was special assistant to Tachi Yamada, president of the foundation's global health program. Shah was the founding director of the Gates Foundation's agriculture program. Kudos to Clay Holtzman for following the trail of foundation execs to the Obama Administration.

Goldfarb, a Philadelphia native, was assistant to John Podesta, President Clinton's chief of staff. Before that she was assistant to the policy staff at the National Economic Council. She also worked at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Another Washington state Democrat now part of Shah's team at the USDA is Maura O'Neill, formerly Sen. Cantwell's chief of staff. She was named senior advisor for energy and climate, which is also part of Research, Education and Economics. O'Neill has an extensive resume, including starting technology companies, promoting investment in regional biotech, serving on Seattle City Light's Energy Advisory board, and lecturing at UC Berkeley and Columbia University. She earned a bachelor's degree and PhD from the University of Washington.

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