Mar 7, 2023
USDA names first permanent chief diversity and inclusion officer

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the appointment of L’Tonya Davis as its first permanent chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO). The CDIO will lead USDA in its ongoing efforts to improve diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) across the Department and will oversee the implementation of USDA’s first-ever DEIA Strategic Plan.

“Throughout her career, Ms. Davis has demonstrated a strong commitment to hiring and developing a workforce that reflects the rich and diverse tapestry of America and to creating workplaces where everyone can thrive and achieve their full potential,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “As part of our commitment to provide equitable services and mission delivery to all, USDA is also focused on its greatest asset – its people. USDA is working to provide equitable service and mission delivery to all, including the dedicated employees who are at the heart of the service we aim to provide. Our workforce will benefit from Ms. Davis’s leadership and her commitment to ensuring our programs benefit every American.”

As CDIO, Davis will work closely with executive leaders, employees, and staff experts to advance and sustain committed leadership and employee engagement for a high-performing and innovative USDA workforce.

Davis joins USDA after serving at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) where she most recently was director of the Office of Communications and Project Management in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA). Davis led ORA’s strategic communications, public affairs, project management, and executive secretariat activities.

She also served for 10 years as ORA’s official executive DEIA champion, providing senior executive leadership and strategic direction to foster and promote an inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible culture and established ORA’s Diversity & Inclusion infrastructure strategic goals.

“Ms. Davis will join a team of talented, hard-working USDA employees whose work touches the lives of every American, every day,” Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, deputy agriculture secretary, said. “With her proven track record of change management and adept leadership skills, Ms. Davis is well-equipped to steer the people’s department on its continued journey to become an organization that centers our employees, our values, and our dedication to addressing persistent challenges and barriers towards bringing the best talent to USDA, retaining and investing in our workforce, and creating a culture where everyone feels welcomed.”

Establishing the first-ever chief diversity and inclusion officer role has been a top priority for Secretary Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, who is stepping down from the department. Dr. Bronaugh was the first Black woman and woman of color to serve as deputy secretary at USDA.

In February, following a year-long review of USDA’s programs and services, USDA’s independent Equity Commission delivered a set of interim recommendations to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The Commission’s 2023 Interim Report includes actionable recommendations on how USDA can further improve equity in its programs and practices.

Davis will replace Leslie Weldon, who was named acting CDIO in March 2022. After 40 years leading diverse natural resource and work environment programs at the USDA’s Forest Service, Weldon was instrumental in the development of the DEIA Strategic Plan and launching this position.

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