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2013 Agriculture / Agriculture Department

Matt Paul, Communications Director

(Liz Lynch)

photo of Ben Terris
July 16, 2013

It's good for a communications director to know his boss well. After all, he's going to spend a good deal of time speaking on his behalf. Having spent eight years working for Tom Vilsack when Vilsack was governor of Iowa, this is not a problem for Paul. A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Paul, 42, worked as a body man, a scheduler, and personal assistant before becoming Vilsack's communications director and senior adviser in the governor's office. When Vilsack was appointed to USDA in 2009, it was only a matter of time before he brought his spokesman with him. Having served as president of the student body in high school, Paul says he partially fits the stereotype of someone who would go into politics. But it wasn't a sure thing. A theater major at what is now Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Paul spent time living in London, aspiring to live the artistic life. Then he realized he needed to pay back his student loans. This led him back to his first love—politics—landing jobs working for two consecutive mayors of his hometown (one Republican and one Democrat). Among other jobs for the mayors, Paul functioned as a press secretary, a role he was eventually able to officially assume after signing on when Vilsack was elected in 1998. Now, Paul heads up a communications department of about 90 staffers who speak on behalf of nearly 100,000 USDA employees.

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