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Oscar Gonzales, Deputy Chief of Staff Oscar Gonzales, Deputy Chief of Staff

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Agriculture Department

Oscar Gonzales, Deputy Chief of Staff

Gonzales had a special reason to be excited when Oxbow won the Preakness this year. One of his first jobs, and one of the reasons he became involved in agriculture, was working for D. Wayne Lukas, the horse's trainer. Like his father and grandfather before him, Gonzales grew up taking care of thoroughbreds. While attending the University of San Diego, Gonzales would wake up at 4:15 a.m. to look after four of Lukas's prized horses. The time he spent pulling hay nets, filling water buckets, and checking horses' legs for injury left an indelible mark on the East Los Angeles native, such that his career in politics inevitably coincided with agriculture. After graduating with a B.A. in political science, Gonzales worked as a community organizer in Los Angeles in the aftermath of the 1992 riots. From there he served as a field representative to then-California Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, and as a staffer for then-Gov. Gray Davis. After Davis was recalled, Gonzales worked for the United Farm Workers of America before coming to the Agriculture Department in 2009. As one of two deputy chiefs of staff, Gonzales, 45, takes on a lot of the operations-management roles of the job. But what he's most excited about is being a point person on immigration reform. "I remind people that within the immigration-reform bill, 140 of the 850 pages is devoted to agricultural labor," he said. "If we can get comprehensive immigration reform passed, we could see rural communities revive. Both small- and large-scale farmers and ranchers could wake up knowing they have a stable workforce."

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