WASHINGTON -- Former Gov. Sonny Perdue vowed to be a transparent and productive steward of the country's farms and food supply as he took the reins at the Department of Agriculture Tuesday morning.
The Republican got a hero's welcome as hundreds of federal employees crowded the Department's ornate Independence Avenue headquarters to greet their new leader just 30 mins after he was sworn in:
"I've been waiting to see y'all, and it looks like y'all have been waiting to see me too, right?" Perdue said as he took the podium.
Perdue referenced family at multiple points in his nearly 20 minute introductory speech and encouraged the department's roughly 100,000 employees to come to him with input and feedback. He also likened the sprawling agency to a more traditional business.
We need to be “good stewards for our investors and shareholders, the American taxpayer,” Perdue said.
"Everything we do will be customer-based and customer-driven," he added.
Perdue said trade and exporting American crops will be at the top of his agenda, as will advocating for rural America and making the department more efficient.
Georgians attendance included U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and Skeeter McCorkle, who was a member of Perdue's Agriculture Advisory Commission when he was governor. Former Georgia Farm Bureau head Zippy Duvall, who now leads the American Farm Bureau, was also there.
Earlier Tuesday, Perdue was sworn in by fellow Georgian Clarence Thomas in a short ceremony at the Supreme Court:
The months proceeding Perdue's Monday confirmation has been marked with some anxiety within the department and broader agriculture community. Perdue's nomination took more than three months to come to a vote in the Senate, and some are worried that Trump's more protectionist trade inclinations could spark trade wars and harm agriculture exports.
The Trump administration's proposal to slash more than 20 percent from the Agriculture Department has also sent a chill through the department and the people who rely on its grants and programs.
Perdue strayed away from talking numbers in his maiden speech.
“I know it’s a little bit overcast outside, but I can assure you: it’s Sonny on top of those clouds," he said.