Former commissioner gets Biden appointment

Helen Price Johnson was appointed to the position of Washington state director of rural development.

President Joe Biden appointed former Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson to the position of Washington state director of rural development in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

She was sworn in Jan. 18.

The agriculture department’s rural development division provides support to rural communities in areas such as housing, business and infrastructure. In her new role, Price Johnson will oversee state rural development programs and strategize goals to strengthen Washington’s rural communities.

“(Rural development) is an ally, advocate and investor for rural people,” she said. “Working with local leaders, businesses, non-profit agencies, tribes and other partners we target investments to enhance the quality of life, support economic prosperity, drive climate resilience, and promote diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Her job also includes communicating with stakeholders about how investing in critical infrastructure in rural communities benefits the state as a whole. For example, expanding broadband access in rural areas will be a primary focus of the rural development program going forward, she said.

Price Johnson said her background in local government and business will be a valuable asset in her new position. Besides serving three terms as an Island County commissioner, she is also a former South Whidbey School Board member, a past president of the Washington State Association of Counties and a small business owner.

Price Johnson was appointed alongside eight other individuals who received leadership roles under the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Housing and Urban Development in their respective states.

“These regional appointees will be critical to the president’s efforts to rebuild communities most impacted by the pandemic, the economic recovery, and climate change,” a White House statement on the appointments reads.