SonnyWatch: Obama’s ag chief leaves early without a replacement

Former Govenor Sonny Perdue and his wife Mary. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Former Govenor Sonny Perdue and his wife Mary. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stepped down Friday a week before his tenure ends – and without a replacement waiting in the wings.

President-elect Donald Trump has yet to decide who will run the $140 billion Department of Agriculture, though he’s narrowed in on former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as a leading contender for the job.

The Associated Press reported Vilsack told employees in an email that Friday is his last day after leading the department for eight years as President Barack Obama’s longest-serving Cabinet secretary.

Trump has yet to announce who will succeed him – it’s the only Cabinet position he’s yet to fill – and some agriculture leaders are worried that he’s neglecting the rural vote that helped deliver him the presidency.

“I just think it puts the incoming secretary in a tough spot,” Vilsack told Politico, noting that he had six weeks to prepare to take the helm of the department before he was confirmed on Jan. 20, 2009.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this month that Trump is narrowing in on Perdue, a 70-year-old veterinarian-turned-politician, for the post. But the New York businessman has yet to announce any decision.

Read more about the Trump transition and the Perdues:

Sources: Sonny Perdue is a top contender for ag job

Sonny Perdue meets Donald Trump: ‘I’d be happy to serve’

Trump administration could mean greater clout for Perdue circle

Sonny Perdue discusses ‘skill set’ with Trump, who still needs ag chief


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