Governor Blunt has appointed the first woman State Agriculture Director and denies he sought a woman for the post to offset the fall-out from how the previous Agriculture Director left.
Blunt has announced that Katie Smith of Platte City is his choice to replace Fred Ferrell, the Agriculture Director who resigned in February amid sexual harassment allegations. Democrats harshly criticized Blunt for not acting sooner against Ferrell. Blunt denies he placed a premium on finding a woman for the position to quell the criticism. Blunt says he considered a lot of good men and women for the position and became convinced that Smith is the best person to lead the department at a critical time.
Smith must be confirmed by the Senate before she replaces Ferrell. She promises to value every employee at the Department, stating that she has been fortunate to be in situations in which supervisors empowered employees. Smith says that is an environment she hopes to create at the Agriculture Department.
Smith was raised on a farm in northwest Missouri, near Platte City. She earned an agriculture journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She has worked for both Senator Talent and Senator Bond as well as northwest Missouri Congressman Sam Graves. Talent, Bond and Graves are all Republicans, as is Governor Blunt. Smith served for four years as the chief policy advisor on agriculture issues for Senator Talent.
Smith has also worked for the United States Department of Agriculture and the federal Department of Energy. Smith, 29, recently moved back to Missouri with her husband Christopher and their daughter, Mary Agnes.
Deputy Agriculture Director Matt Boatright has been serving as Acting Agriculture Director. Boatright will return to his role as Deputy Director upon Smith’s confirmation.
Smith’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate.